A devastated mother has told of how life will never be the same without her beloved daughter.
Tracey Keighley says every day is a “living hell” for her and the heartbroken family Melissa Liddle left behind.
The 23-year-old was stabbed to death by her childhood sweetheart Anthony Ross – who has mental health issues – in the home they shared in Oak Avenue, South Shields.
The family say the attack has robbed Melissa’s two children, Lewis, five, and baby Ollie, of a “devoted and loving” mother.
Ross was originally charged with murder, but a guilty plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility was accepted at a court hearing.
Melissa’s family believe he should have been tried for murder, and they are praying for a severe sentence for the killer who took their daughter’s life.
Mrs Keighley, 45, broke down as she recalled the heart-wrenching moment she heard in open court just what Ross had done to her daughter.
Stepfather David Keighley said: “For the family we want the harshest sentence possible. He is a monster who should never ever be allowed out again.
“He didn’t just kill Melissa, he butchered her.”
Mrs Keighley said: “When Melissa was killed I was told she had been stabbed 33 times. Then when they said 41. That’s more times he put the knife into her and that is the hardest thing to live with - knowing what my beautiful, loving and caring daughter must have gone through that night.
“It is only a mother who can understand what it is like to know this and knowing you weren’t there to help her.”
Mrs Keighley said: “The arguments between Melissa and Anthony had been gradually getting worse, but Melissa said she would be OK.
“She was so excited about what she had bought me for Mother’s Day. I rang her on the morning at 7.55am and there was no reply.
“As the day went on there was nothing and I started to get concerned. I had sent my son Liam round a few times, but there was no answer. Then I remembered I had a key, as I’d been decorating for her.
“Liam and David went round. I just had a horrible gut feeling that something wasn’t right.”
Mr Keighley, 49, said: “Everything just seemed to happen in slow motion. My son had ran up the stairs and all I heard was him shouting ‘Mel, Mel’. I ran upstairs. When I saw her, I knew she was gone.”
He said of Ross: “I had never liked him. He was jealous and the rows had been getting worse, but you never expect this.”
Mrs Keighley added: “We have not been allowed to grieve for our daughter. He talks about how he loved Melissa. How can you love someone and do that to them?
“Since day one the legal system seems to have been about him and what happens when he is rehabilitated. What about us? What about Melissa?
“We just feel like we are being treated like second-class citizens and at times. No matter, what sentence is given - it is us and her two boys who are going to have to live with the life sentence, not him.”
Ross, who had been due for sentence on Monday, has had his case adjourned so his defence team can find him a place at a suitable hospital and have him further assessed.
A court heard that 24-year-old Ross stabbed the mother of his two children 41 times after becoming convinced she was having an affair.
His legal team had instructed expert psychiatrists who said Ross should be sentenced to a hospital order and receive treatment for a mental disorder.
However, a prosecution expert said the killer should be punished with a prison sentence.
Ross and Melissa had been childhood sweethearts after meeting at Mortimer Comprehensive School, where they were both pupils.
The court heard Ross had become convinced she had started an affair through a friend at her work.
His mental state had “deteriorated significantly” two days before Melissa’s death, with him telling his worried family time seemed to be “moving slow”, that he was hearing voices and wanting to stay with his father so he was safe.
The court heard in the early hours of Sunday ,March 15, Ross called his mother to tell her he was hearing voices and had “an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other”.
He was arrested and told detectives he had fallen asleep in bed that night for two to three hours and then woke up and walked around with a knife he kept in the bedroom for protection.