Cassie Hayes: Man jailed for murdering travel agent

Cassie Hayes (left) with mother Tracy Hayes (centre) and sister Nadine Hayes (right) Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Cassie Hayes (left) with her mother Tracy Hayes (centre) and sister Nadine Hayes (right)

A man who murdered his ex-partner's new girlfriend by cutting her throat at her workplace has been jailed for a minimum of 26 years.

Travel agent Cassie Hayes, 28, was attacked at the Tui store in Southport town centre on 13 January.

Andrew Burke, 31, of St Helens, had been convicted the day before of harassing his former partner Laura Williams.

The judge described Ms Hayes's death as a "cold-blooded execution in public".

Burke pleaded guilty to murder and having an offensive weapon, namely a knife, in a public place and was jailed at Liverpool Crown Court for a minimum of 26 years on Monday.

Sentencing him to life, Judge David Aubrey described the murder as "an act of unspeakable savagery".

"This was a cowardly act of revenge designed to kill and did kill a totally innocent person in broad daylight in front of, and witnessed by, so many," he added.

Image copyright Merseyside Police
Image caption Andrew Burke told police: "It was either kill me or kill her, so I killed her"

Prosecutor Gordon Cole QC said the murder of Ms Hayes, who was originally from Alnwick, Northumberland, was a pre-meditated and planned attack carried out in a "chilling and ruthless way".

"It was essentially an execution of a young woman in her place of work," he added.

The court heard Ms Hayes, who had a four-year-old daughter, was attending to a family at the Tui branch on a Saturday lunchtime when Burke entered with his hood up.

He then told a cashier: "I just want to apologise for what I am about to do."

After killing Ms Hayes, Burke remained at the back of the shop and made apologies by saying that nobody deserved to see what happened, the court was told.

He was also heard to have made remarks to the effect that Ms Hayes "had it coming for her what she had done to his family".

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Laura Williams said Cassie Hayes (right) was "my future wife and my forever"

A post-mortem examination found Ms Hayes died of shock and haemorrhaging due to a wound to the throat.

The court heard staff and customers who witnessed the attack, including a 12-year-old girl, had suffered flashbacks of the attack, with one of Ms Hayes's colleagues saying she had become a recluse since it happened.

Ms Hayes's mother told Burke he should "rot in hell" for taking away "my whole world" as she read out a victim impact statement in court.

"You are the most evil, evil monster walking on this whole earth. You do not deserve to breathe fresh air," Tracy Hayes added.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Cassie Hayes's mother Tracy (centre) was at court with her other daughter Nadine (second from right)

The court heard police officers found Burke lying on the floor in the centre of the shop with his head towards the door.

He then told a firearms officer: "I'm no threat to you, officer. I've got nothing else on me. The knife's on the table."

Mr Cole added: "After this ruthless and chilling murder the defendant seemed to remain calm.

"He showed no emotion and remained seated whilst everybody else was reacting in one way or another to what had happened."

The court heard Burke also told police: "It was either kill me or kill her, so I killed her."

He added: "Can you tell the family that was in here I'm sorry, I thought I'd waited till there were no kids in there."

Image copyright Peter Byrne
Image caption Andrew Burke attacked Cassie Hayes at the Tui store in Southport town centre

Burke, of Vincent Street, was the ex-partner of Ms Williams, 29, who had been in a relationship with Ms Hayes since the break-up.

He had been charged with harassing Ms Williams on 13 November and was bailed ahead of sentencing after being convicted of the offence on 12 January.

Burke was also the subject of an allegation of harassment against Ms Hayes from May and was issued with a police information notice warning him regarding any future contact.

He had been fined at court in January 2017 for making malicious communications when his mother made a statement to police about remarks he had made to her over the phone when he repeatedly threatened to kill himself or Ms Hayes because he held her responsible for the end of his relationship.

Paying tribute to Ms Hayes previously, Ms Williams described her as "my future wife and my forever".

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