A man has been jailed for a minimum of 26 years for the murder of a Northumberland-born travel agent at her workplace.
Cassie Hayes, 28, died in hospital from a wound to her throat inflicted on the afternoon of January 13 at the Tui branch in Southport town centre where she was employed as assistant manager.
TravelWireNews Chatroom for Readers (join us)
Andrew Burke, 31, of Vincent Street, St Helens, pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to her murder and having an offensive weapon, namely a knife, in a public place.
Members of Ms Hayes’ family, originally from Alnwick, were in the packed courtroom on Monday.
Opening the case, Gordon Cole, prosecuting, said the murder was a pre-meditated and planned attack carried out in a “totally ruthless way”.
He said: “It was essentially an execution of a young woman in her place of work.”
The court heard that the defendant was the ex-partner of Laura Williams, 29, who had been in a relationship with Ms Hayes since the break-up.
Mr Cole said the split between Ms Williams and the defendant had caused problems.
(Image: Family Handout/PA Wire)
Burke was charged with harassing Ms Williams on November 13 last year and was convicted of the offence on January 12 when he appeared at Sefton Magistrates’ Court and was bailed ahead of sentencing.
He was also the subject of an allegation of harassment against Ms Hayes in May 2017 and was issued with a police information notice warning him over any future contact.
Burke was also charged with making malicious communications in January this year when his mother, Lousie McConnell, 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.
Burke pleaded guilty to that offence and received a fine and an unpaid work requirement.
A statement read out by Mr Cole on behalf of Nadine Hayes, Ms Hayes’ sister, said: “On January 13, my sister, my beautiful sister was taken away from me. She was not only my sister, she was my best friend. She was beautiful inside and out.
“She touched the hearts of all who knew her.
(Image: Family Handout/PA Wire)
“Knowing I can’t talk to her, I can’t pick up my phone and call or message my sister, is unbearable.
“A part of me has gone with Cass, that’s how close we were, we we’re best friends.
“We have come from a close family a happy family.”
She says that when Ms Hayes got the job as a travel agent she “Jumped up and down” with joy.
She says her sister loved being a travel agent in her native Alnwick, and transferred to Southport in 2001.
Ms Hayes recalls waving her sister off at the train station in tears.
“She made a life in Southport, we visited all the time. She found herself, she became a new person.
“Cass loved her job, we were so proud of her.”
(Image: Merseyside Police/PA Wire)
Tracey Hayes, Ms Hayes’ mum, took to the witness stand to address a motionless Burke.
She said: “On January 13, our lives changed forever. You took the most precious gift I ever had in my life, my beautiful daughter, my baby in the most horrific away.
“You are the most evil horrific monster walking on this earth. You do not deserve to breathe fresh air again. You predicted every detail of that day.
“You walked into her shop and told someone what you were about to do. You went behind my baby, and made out like you were giving her a cuddle, showing everyone that nothing was wrong. Then you ended my baby’s life.
“You took a deep breath, and showed no remorse whatsoever. You watched my baby die, in that lady’s arms.
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)
“You are a sick disturbed man, and you should spend the rest of your life behind bars.
“She was my whole world, my everything, my best friend. I have got to live the rest of my life without her.
“I hope you rot in hell, you evil coward of a man.”
Mr Cole also read a statement from Mrs McCafferty, who witnessed the killing.
“Unfortunately my husband, my daughter and I were sat opposite Cassie and witnessed the whole horrific incident from only a desk away,” it said.
“I am not overstating things to say that what we saw was absolutely horrifying and deeply traumatic.
“Although we have been assured that we could not have prevented it from happening, we have been plagued by feelings of irrational guilt.”
David McLachlan, representing Burke, said: “He has taken the life of a much loved young woman who was only 28 and had much to live for, and in the process has also ruined his own life.
“Andrew Burke turned 31 last Friday and he now falls to be sentenced for the most serious criminal charge of murder.
“What he has done is unbelievable, as several witnesses said it is like something from movie, not real life.
“From the age of 29 he had lead an unremarkable and trouble free life. He had worked several jobs, had several relationships.”
Mr McLachlan said his client has not “strung out” the case and has accepted responsibility by pleading guilty.
Burke was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 26 years.
Sentencing him, Judge David Aubrey said: “In my judgement the killing was an act of unspeakable savagery. The events of January 13, 2018, and when you must have known there would be many customers in the travel agents, were captured on CCTV.
“The description of that footage is so brutal and harrowing, I order it must never be released to the public.
“You had planned everything you were about to do. You had bought a knife specifically for the purpose of killing your victim.
“Into the shop you go, and then in front of everyone you went behind the deceased, lifted her head, and ran the knife forcefully across her throat. Your actions were deliberate and calculated in the extreme.
“Nobody deserved to witness it, nobody ever deserved to be your victim, Inevitably those in the shop were to witness your act.
“You were fixated on a misconceived injustice that you perceived to have been visited upon you.”
Judge Aubrey added: “You may spend the entirety of the rest of your life in prison and you will certainly never be released unless and until the Parole Board come to the view that you no longer present a risk to the public.”