THE mother of a murdered vulnerable woman says she will pray her happy memories overcome the horror of her death.

Jennifer Ashby spoke out about her daughter Nicola Stevenson, who was killed in a “frenzied” claw hammer attack at her flat in Lewes.

Alongside husband Peter, she had attended every day of the murder trial.

Her statement was read out at Hove Crown Court as 42-year-old Richard Canlin was jailed for life for Nicola’s murder.

Nicola was a mother-of-two, and cherished her children who were in care, sending them Christmas and birthday cards.

Both had wanted to have contact with their mum as they grew up, but have been robbed of that experience.

Canlin had dumped Nicola’s body in a bin off the Landport estate in Lewes, then tried to take over the tenancy and energy bills at her flat.

He bought himself a snooker table and Xbox with Nicola’s benefit money, and removed a picture of Nicola and her children from the flat.

The killer told Nicola’s friends a pack of lies about her moving away to Scotland to throw them off the scent.

But her body was found in November last year, a month after her disappearance.

Prosecution barrister Caroline Carberry QC read out the victim impact statements.

Mrs Ashby said: “No parent should ever have to bury their child.

“This last year has been surreal, I felt as if I drifted into a TV crime drama, waiting for the credits to roll on. But of course this is real life.

“All I can do is pray that with God’s help my lasting, loving memories of my feisty, determined daughter will overcome those brutal memories that this act of horror has created.”

Father Peter Ashby said: “It is nigh on impossible to express the full impact of how Nicola’s death has impacted our lives.

“For the full extent of our emotions it is still far too soon to even try to put everything into words. Maybe we will never be able to do that.”

Nicola was diagnosed with Russell-Silver syndrome, a form of dwarfism, from birth.

Her children were in care, but both talk about her and had wanted to see her when they were adults.

Their adopted parent said: “It is a huge loss for both of them to know that this chance has been taken away from them.”

Judge Shani Barnes said there were signs that Canlin intended to refuse to leave, and confront Nicola.

The judge said Nicola did not know the danger she was in.