The mother of a travel agent executed in cold blood at her workplace has told her murderer face-to-face he was an 'evil coward of a man' before he was jailed for life.
Tracy Hayes entered the witness box at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday (April 9) to read out a powerful victim personal statement at the sentencing of Andrew Burke, who viciously slashed her daughter’s throat as she tended to customers.
Burke, 31, blamed Cassie Hayes, 28, an assistant manager at the Tui branch in Southport, Merseyside, for “ruining his life” after she began a relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Laura Williams, 29, following their break-up. A day before the brutal killing on a Saturday afternoon in front of her colleagues and customers, including children, the defendant appeared before magistrates where he admitted harassing Ms Williams months before.
He was bailed ahead of sentencing and later told his sister on the phone: “I can’t do it any more. I’ll turn left and go home, or turn right, go to Wilkinsons, buy the biggest knife I can find, go to Southport and slit Cassie’s throat.”
In 2017, Burke was warned by police, who issued an information notice for allegedly harassing Ms Hayes and also received a court fine and an unpaid work requirement after he admitting making a malicious communication to his mother in which he repeatedly threatened to kill Ms Hayes and himself.
On January 13 this year, Burke bought a kitchen knife and entered the Chapel Street shop with his hood up and told a currency exchange cashier: “I just want to apologise for what I am about to do.” After he lowered his hood he walked behind Ms Hayes and placed his arms around her head before he cut her throat and sliced completely through her voicebox.
Burke calmly sat down amid the chaotic scenes and was later laid on the floor in the centre of the shop when police arrived in response to emergency calls, said prosecutor Gordon Cole QC.
He told a firearms officer: “I was in court yesterday and I lost. It was either kill me or kill her, so I killed her. The only reason I wasn’t still cutting her when you turned up was cos you’d shoot me and I didn’t want to put you through that.”
Ms Hayes was rushed to hospital as stunned shoppers in the busy precinct looked on, but died later the same day.
On Monday after Burke, of Vincent Street, St Helens, pleaded guilty to murder and possessing an offensive weapon in public, Ms Hayes’s mother came forward to the witness box, supported arm-in-arm by Ms Hayes’s sister, Nadine.
Tracy Hayes, from Alnwick, told Burke, who sat emotionless in the dock: “You took the most precious gift I ever had in my life, my beautiful daughter, my baby, in the most horrific way ever. You are the most evil, evil monster walking on this whole earth. You do not deserve to breathe fresh air.”
“You are a sick, disturbed man and you do not deserve to walk the streets again. You should spend the rest of your life behind bars.
“I just want my baby back and I hope you rot in hell you evil, evil coward of a man. You fat, evil coward.”
As the pair returned to their seats, the packed public gallery broke into applause. David McLachlan QC, defending, said his client had led an “unremarkable and trouble-free life” up until the age of 29.
He started a relationship with Ms Williams and they had a daughter together, but he later became depressed and moved out of their home, the court heard. Matters 'turned toxic' when he discovered she was with Ms Hayes and he took it 'very, very badly' and took two overdoses.
The court was told his life then revolved around an obsession with his ex-girlfriend and blaming Ms Hayes for their break-up.
Sentencing Burke to a minimum of 26 years in jail before he can be considered for parole, Judge David Aubrey told the defendant: “You perpetrated a cold-blooded execution in public for the purpose of revenge and in my judgment the killing was 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.”
Burke received a two-year concurrent sentence for possessing an offensive weapon in public. In February, he was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail for the harassment of Ms Williams.