MURDERER Allyn John Slater had known eight-year-old Trinity Bates since she was born.
His father, Mark, and Trinity's father, Damian, had known each other for about 15 years through work.
They also had a mutual love of snakes and the Bundaberg families would often socialise together.
Damian and Trinity, who moved to their Walker St home seven months before she was abducted and killed, would visit the Slater house to help out with the snakes.
Trinity was close friends with Allyn's younger brother. They would play together at their respective houses and she sometimes had sleepovers at the Slater house with him.
Allyn had been to the Bates family home, but had never been into Trinity's bedroom until the night of February 21, 2010.
Born on March 14, 1990, he was aged 19 when he stole Trinity from her bed, strangled her and dumped her in a stormwater drain. Now 22, he has spent his past three birthdays behind bars awaiting his trial in Bundaberg Supreme Court.
This week, he decided to plead guilty just days before the trial was due to start and was sentenced to mandatory life in jail, with no specified parole period.
His sentencing hearing was told Allyn was unemployed and living with his parents the night he changed two families' lives forever.
The then 19-year-old slept in a separate building at the back of the house.
He had had "an unhappy time at school", completing Year 12 with "moderate results" and done a short traineeship in carpentry after he finished school.
He had two previous criminal convictions on his history - having once been caught trespassing on school property, and using a carriage service to menace.
The latter involved a series of phone calls to a 22-year-old girl saying he loved her and wanted to have sex with her. He was 17 at the time and told police he was affected by alcohol.
The night before he killed Trinity was no different to any other. He ate dinner at the computer he was playing on and went to bed about 9.30pm.
His mother found him in bed when she checked on him before she turned in about 10pm.
The Slater family became aware of Trinity's disappearance about 6am the next day. Allyn's father received a call from Damian Bates's brother-in-law, with whom he worked.
He initially searched around the Slater house in case Trinity had visited. He checked on Allyn and saw he was still in bed.
Mr Slater was then collected and driven around looking for Trinity. His wife, Allyn's mother, also joined the search.
All the while, the very predator was at the Slater home looking after his young brother.
A police dog found Trinity's body in a stormwater drain under Hunter St about 6.15am.
Police found Trinity's blood on a plant, rock and footpath near a window to her bedroom.
Fingerprints and palm impressions left on that window, by someone clearly climbing in and out, led them straight to Allyn.
But he could not explain why he had gone to the child's room that night, claiming he had few memories of his actions.
Allyn told police he played computer games and then watched TV before choosing to go for a walk. When he walked past the Bates family home, he saw Trinity's window was open.
He used a plastic chair from the family's outdoor setting at the back of their house to get into the eight-year-old's bedroom.
Allyn told police he had no real memory of what had happened in the bedroom, nor getting to the drain, but he remembered sliding down into the drain.
He was aware Trinity was with him but he did not know if she was asleep or awake, he told them. He could not say whether she spoke at all during the time he had her.
Allyn told officers he thought he had her over his shoulder and had some memory of her grabbing or holding onto him.
"While he had no real memory of going into the drain, he could recall it was hard to manoeuvre or stand up," the court was told on Thursday.
"He could recall there was water, that it was cold at the bottom of the drain and that it wasn't very deep.
"He can ... remember walking home."
Allyn told police he knew "everybody had loved the child, even his own family, and now she was dead because of him", the court heard.
He said he "knew what he was doing was wrong but he was at a loss as to why he did it".
"It just seemed he couldn't control himself as he choked her," the court was told.
Allyn denied any sexual motivation and denied drugs or alcohol had impaired his judgment.
There were no signs of sexual interference.
This is the first time the Bundaberg community has had any insight into the mind of Trinity's killer.
But it was a "senseless crime" and sadly the big question - of why it happened - will never be answered.
Griffith University professor Paul Mazerolle runs a violence research and prevention program and is interviewing hundreds of killers in a bid to understand why homicides happen.
He said the Bundaberg community, even those who did not know Trinity, would feel the grief of her loss.
Prof Mazerolle said a lot of people would have been taken aback by the sudden plea and sentence this week but it had saved them from going through weeks of media coverage dissecting the details.
He said it could be challenging for a community to move forward, but such justice ceremonies were important in the process.
Prof Mazerolle said the perpetrator's family would also feel a sense of loss because they would feel they had lost a son and the previous status they had in their community.
He said they would feel ostracised and labelled.
Prof Mazerolle said there are "layers and layers of loss and sadness" when such a case touched a city the size of Bundaberg.
"There's no doubt it's had a huge impact on a community to have a young innocent life taken in the way it happened," he said.
"There's pretty good evidence that the vulnerability of the victim can shape the community attitude and the public response.
"An eight-year-old in her house in her bed is a very vulnerable, innocent individual. The extent to which she lost her life in that way fosters a sense of community grief and community concern."
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