Killer of South Shields mum Melissa Liddle gets hospital sentence

A killer who stabbed his girlfriend to death on Mother's Day after becoming convinced she was having an affair will be detained in hospital indefinitely.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 23rd February 2016, 2:39 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd February 2016, 3:00 pm
South Shields mum Melissa Liddle was stabbed 41 times.
South Shields mum Melissa Liddle was stabbed 41 times.

Mum-of-two Melissa Liddle, 23, was found dead in bed at her South Shields home after her family grew concerned about her absence on the special day.

Boyfriend Anthony Ross, 24, whose “possessive and controlling” behaviour had got worse in the previous weeks, had stabbed the much loved mum 41 times.

Newcastle Crown Court heard it was when Melissa failed to get in touch with her family on the Mother’s Day she had been looking forward to, her worried brother and step-father kicked in the front door and found her body, while her frantic mum listened to what was happening over the phone.

Her heartbroken mum, who said Melissa could “light up a room with her smile”, told police: “I was shouting for them to kick the door in.

“I heard the sound of them running upstairs. There was tears in my eyes.

“There was panic as my son screamed for his sister, then it went quiet.

“I screamed ‘God no, please.

“My husband told me she had gone, I collapsed to the floor.”

Melissa’s step-father, who raised her from being a child, described what he found in the house that day last March as “hell”.

Her heartbroken brother Liam Bush never got over what he saw and was found dead just months after his sister.

The devastated 21-year-old left a suicide note after his death last November, saying he wanted to be with his sister and could no longer cope with what happened.

Prosecutor Nick Dry told the court: “Added to the victim impact statement is the tragic death, in fact suicide, of Melissa Liddle’s brother Liam.

“It was he who discovered his sister’s body in March last year and, sad it is to report, he killed himself in November, three weeks after his 21st birthday.

“He did leave a note, which indicated he wished to be with his sister, he couldn’t cope with her loss.

“Also recovered was a sketch drawing, depicting the scene at the house when he found her body.”

The court heard Melissa’s lifeless body had already been discovered by Ross’s father and uncle, who arranged for the killer to have an appointment with a

solicitor but did not contact the emergency services about what they found.

Judge Paul Sloan QC said this was “highly regrettable” and added: “Had the alarm been raised straight away, as it ought to have been, what in fact occurred could have been avoided.”

The judge sentenced Ross to a hospital order and, after hearing evidence from consultant psychiatrists, said he was satisfied he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

Ross’s order includes a special restriction which means he will only be released if and when the authorities, in agreement with specialist psychiatrists, agree it is safe.

Judge Sloan said: “There should be no question of you set at large unless and until the relevant authorities are completely satisfied that you no longer present any danger to the public arising from your mental disorder.”

The judge said Ross’s killing of Melissa, who showed “devotion” as a mother and a great talent at her work, had had a “devastating” effect on her family and friends and said the death of her brother was a tragedy.

He added: “No sentence I pass could ever serve to lessen or ease their pain.”

Toby Hedworth QC, defending, said experts have diagnosed Ross as having had paranoid schizophrenia since his teens.

Mr Hedworth said Ross “bitterly regrets” the enormous harm he has done.

He added: “This is a man who was unwell and seriously unwell.

“If there was anything at all he could do to put the clock back he would do


The court heard Melissa, who had a baby boy just months old and a son aged five, thought of her children as her “little rays of sunshine” and had told her mum the night before her death how excited she was for Mother’s Day.

Ross, who had become convinced she had started an affair through a friend at her work, told his mother around the time of the killing he had “an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other”.

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.

On Friday March 13, he had gone rang Melissa at work, who had to let him speak to a colleague in a bid to prove where she was.

And he had turned up at Melissa’s mother’s home later that day, “raging” and like “a man possessed”, making further unfounded accusations about her.

The former gardener and window cleaner had attended a walk in centre at Jarrow, South Tyneside, on Saturday March 14 , the day before the killing due to his state.

He was advised to attend hospital if his condition did not improve.

The court heard Melissa had been at work in the florists that Saturday.

Mr Dry told the court; “She had been calling her mother to tell her how excited she was about the presents she had for her.”

Meanwhile, Ross had been ringing his own worried mother that day, talking “gibberish” and telling her he had been hearing voices.

The court heard the couple had planned to spend that night apart and the children were with grandparents.

Mr Dry told the court; “However, Melissa sent a text message asking the defendant to come home, she didn’t want to stay in the house on her own.”

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 called his mother again later that morning to wish her a happy mothers’ day and tell her “don’t forget I love you”.

The court heard Ross was driving to Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, York, Leeds and Harrogate, while Melissa’s family started to grow concerned about why she had not been in touch and made the heartbreaking find.

Melissa’s mum said in her victim statement that her daughter loved all special occasions and had been excited to give out Mother’s Day gifts.

She described her daughter as strong, loyal, sincere, beautiful and caring and added; “I always hoped she would grow up just as she did.

“She made me feel so proud every day.

“I feel privileged to call her my daughter.

“She could light up a room with her smile.

“I wish I could see her just once more.

“We all miss her so much it is painful.

“Thinking about her last moments, thinking about her fighting for her life and the fear she must have felt, the guilt as a mother is overwhelming at times, that I wasn’t there to help her.”

Ross was arrested and told detectives he had fallen asleep in bed that night for around two to three hours and then woke up and walked around with a knife he kept in the bedroom for protection.

Mr Dry added: “He said he had voices in his head telling him she had been sleeping around.

“He wasn’t sure if it was Melissa or someone who looked like her in the bed as he stabbed her.

“He thought he was being watched by other people on the bed.

“He didn’t know how many times he stabbed Melissa nor why he was doing it.”

Ross, of Oak Avenue, South Shields, admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.