A factory worker convicted of murdering his eight-year-old daughter in an apparent act of revenge against his ex-partner has been jailed for life.
William Billingham will serve a minimum of 27 years for the killing, and a further two years to run concurrently for threatening to kill his former partner on the night of the murder.
Billingham, who will be aged 82 before his release from prison can be considered by the Parole Board, stared at the floor and shook his head as he was sentenced.
Judge Paul Farrer QC called it a “brutal and cowardly killing of a defenceless and much loved child with her whole life ahead of her.”
He added: “This offence was driven by jealousy and anger. You turned that anger upon Mylee and killed her in order to cause pain to her mother.”
The 55-year-old used a kitchen knife to kill Mylee Billingham after dragging her by the coat into his bungalow – moments after holding the blade to the neck of her mother, Tracey Taundry.
A trial at Birmingham Crown Court heard how Taundry dialled 999 from outside Billingham’s house in Brownhills, near Walsall, telling operators to hurry as Mylee was screaming “stop it daddy”.
Jurors deliberated for around 80 minutes before unanimously convicting Billingham of murder and a separate charge of making a threat to kill 34-year-old Taundry.
The unemployed factory worker opted not to give evidence, claiming he had no memory of stabbing Mylee through the chest, and was guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter due to depression.
But prosecutors argued that Billingham “turned his anger” on Mylee to spite Taundry after she began a same-sex relationship, screaming: “I’m going to slice your neck off you dirty lesbian.”
Opening the case at the start of the trial, prosecutor Karim Khalil QC said of the killing: “It was swift, deliberate, clinical, brutal. It was not some manic unfocused assault.
“This was no accident and it was not a slight injury – it was a deep, violent thrust of a lethal weapon into the most vulnerable part of his young daughter’s body.”
The court heard how Billingham had struck Mylee once in the chest causing a 17cm deep wound puncturing her lung and main artery.
In a victim impact statement, read to the court record by a prosecution barrister, Taundry described the actions of her ex-partner as “selfish and despicable”.
The statement added: “How can I ever explain how the murder of my beautiful daughter – smiley Mylee – has affected me, her sisters and her immediate family?
“Mylee was brutally taken from us by a man who was supposed to protect and to care for her.
“Since this incident I have struggled to sleep. I have constant nightmares and I relive that terrible night over and over again. I regularly hear Mylee’s voice and immediately start to look for her.
“Since the incident I’ve struggled to sleep and wake up thinking of Mylee and relive that terrible night over and over again.
“Then the reality hits me and I realise my baby is gone. I hear her voice and immediately start to look for her.
“You loved to dance and sing. I watched your friends collect their certificates and your name was called but you wasn’t there so I carried it home with heartache.
“No more dance shows. No more burnt toast on Mother’s Day.”
Taundry said Mylee’s two sisters had needed counselling adding: “They will live with this for the rest of their lives as will I. We will never get over what happened and live with the awful memory.
“Mylee you were perfect. There was a time when you ran towards your dad.
“I trusted him with my most perfect gift and he broke it in a way nobody can comprehend.
“He committed the most brutal and cruel actions for no good reason. He let you down in the most terrible of ways and took your life with the same hands that he used to lift you up when you were down.
“We all miss and love you so much my smiley Mylee.”
Judge Farrer QC accepted that Billingham, who had a previous conviction and two cautions for assaulting previous partners, loved Mylee, was full of remorse and that the decision to harm her had been spontaneous.
Before sentence was passed, Billingham’s barrister Balraj Bhatia said: “Perhaps the biggest burden a parent can ever deal with is the loss of a child before they die. That burden must be magnified to an immeasurable degree when that child has died at your own hands.
“This court will punish him in terms of years. His punishment – to use his own words – is that he is still breathing.
“Your Honour knows, during the course of this trial, that he tried to take his own life.
“Just this morning as I was preparing him for the impact statement, there was a palpable rush of hatred from every prisoner that walked by the cell.
“To use his own words, he cannot live with this nor does he desire to live with this. As I say, his real punishment is that he is still breathing.”
The jury were not told that Billingham tried to kill himself during the trial but the judge revealed that information to them after the verdicts had been delivered.
He attended court with bandages on both arms – but jurors were told not to speculate about why they were there.
Yesterday as Billingham was led down to the cells a family member shouted “See you later scum.”