Death of child killer likely to be linked to lung condition, inquest told

Matthew Cooper, PA
·3-min read

The death of a child killer serving a life sentence for the murder of his eight-year-old daughter is not believed to be suspicious, an inquest has heard.

William Billingham was found dead last week in his cell at HMP Birmingham, where he was serving a 27-year minimum term for stabbing Mylee Billingham in a “cowardly and brutal” attack in Brownhills, near Walsall, in January 2018.

The Area Coroner for Birmingham, James Bennett, was told that the father-of-six was already dead by the time paramedics arrived at the jail on March 19.

HMP Birmingham
William Billingham was found dead in his cell at HMP Birmingham (Ben Birchall/PA)

Mr Bennett said Billingham’s death was likely to be linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and confirmed that the 57-year-old had complained of feeling unwell and been assessed by medical staff on March 18.

The coroner told the inquest opening at Birmingham Coroner’s Court: “The information that I have received is at an early stage and provisional.

“It is understood that, on the 18th of March, he (Billingham) reported to medical staff at HMP Birmingham that he was feeling unwell.

“On the following day he was found deceased in his cell.

“At this point in time West Midlands Police do not believe his death to be suspicious.”

The coroner added: “A post-mortem examination was conducted on the 23rd of March.

“It is likely that Mr Billingham’s death was connected to his severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder but that cannot be confirmed until toxicology has been completed.”

William Billingham court case
Mylee Billingham was stabbed to death by her father in January 2018 (West Midlands Police/PA)

Mr Bennett adjourned the inquest until a review hearing on July 29, and said a subsequent final hearing is expected to investigate the medical cause of death, the role of medical services at HMP Birmingham, and the monitoring of Billingham’s medical needs.

A trial at Birmingham Crown Court was told that primary school pupil Mylee was stabbed in January 2018 in a “revenge” attack motivated by jealousy and anger against Billingham’s ex-partner, Tracey Taundry.

Jurors were told that Billingham, of Valley View, Brownhills, killed the youngster after dragging her into his bungalow when her mother came to collect her.

The former factory worker was also given a two-year concurrent jail term for holding a kitchen knife to the throat of Miss Taundry moments before the murder.

After the hearing, the then 55-year-old was said by his lawyer to have no desire to live due to his remorse over the killing.

Offering mitigation before sentence was passed in October 2018, defence barrister Balraj Bhatia said: “This court will punish him in terms of years. His punishment – to use his own words – is that he is still breathing.

“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.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “HMP Birmingham prisoner William Billingham died in custody on 19 March 2021. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has been informed.”