Thug asked 'why are you still breathing?' as he strangled girlfriend

Richard Cairns
Richard Cairns -Credit:Cheshire Police

A thug threatened to bite his girlfriend's nose off, eat it and "chop her up and put her in the bin".

Richard Cairns subjected his partner to a brutal and prolonged assault before throwing her out into the street after stripping her naked. He also repeatedly punched her in the face and throttled her while asking "why are you still alive?", before chillingly pondering: "What if I woke up to you this morning as a corpse?"

Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday, Wednesday, that the 54-year-old had been in a relationship with his victim, who the ECHO has chosen not to name, for around nine years before they split up on December 11 last year. They however resumed contact around Christmas time after his dad suffered a fall, and she later visited him at his home on December 30.

READ MORE: Man killed wife then went to Costa Coffee

READ MORE: He ruined the lives of two young boys but paedophile still won't admit his twisted obsession

Eve Salter, prosecuting, described how members of his family also attended the address that evening before leaving, after which the couple stood by the front door talking to neighbours. Cairns, of Ridsdale in Widnes, then suddenly grabbed hold of her and said: "I love you, but I hate you."

The dad continued to pull at her hoodie and added "go and get your stuff and f*** off". But, when she packed her belongings as requested, he "ripped her bag and coat off her" and told her: "You're not going anywhere."

Cairns then "ragged her jumper off", pushed her onto a mattress on the living room floor, took her clothes off and straddled her before placing both of his hands around her neck. The complainant was left struggling to breath and "believed she was going to die" as he said: "Why are you still breathing? Why are you still alive?"

He went on to place a pillow over her face and began biting her to the cheek and nose while saying: "I'm going to bite it off and swallow it so they can't stitch it back on. I'm sorry but you need to die, you need to die."

Cairns then strangled her for a second time, at which stage she blacked out. By the time she came around, she found her attacker making himself a drink.

When he noticed her stirring, he said to her: "F***ing move. I dare you."

The woman told him that she needed to use the toilet, at which point he punched her in the face. She was knocked out again as a result of this blow, and was then dragged to the bathroom after regaining consciousness.

Cairns however continued to keep hold of her as she used the facilities. Afterwards, he dragged her to the front door and said: "Let's see if the neighbours want you."

Still undressed at this point, she was left "terrified and humiliated" after being pushed into the street. She was eventually allowed to return inside, at which point she was dragged back onto the mattress in the living room and screamed as she was repeatedly punched in the head.

Cairns told her to "stay there and don't ever move" before she "cried herself to sleep". She also recalled him repeatedly telling her: "If I can't have you, no one can."

After she awoke the next morning, he made comments including: "I can't believe you're still alive. What if I woke up to you this morning as a corpse?

"I'd have probably chopped you up and put you in the bin. I'm suicidal and I don't know what to do."

Cairns attended a gathering with her family members later on New Year's Eve, which he was ultimately asked to leave after "his mood changed". Police were then informed of the assault, and he answered no comment to detectives under interview following his arrest.

In a statement read to the court on her behalf, the victim said: "I don't feel like I want to be here any more. I'm a nervous wreck and afraid of my own shadow. I'm not the same person any more. Sometimes I wake up and think, why am I existing?

"He's completely ruined my life and taken everything away from me."

Her eldest son meanwhile said in a statement of his own: "Seeing my bubbly, happy mum turn into a shell of herself was absolutely heartbreaking. All I want is for my mum to be safe and to move on with her life in any way she can."

Cairns has a total of three previous convictions for three offences. His criminal record shows entries for assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 1985, criminal damage in 1987 and wounding in 2016 in relation to a fight in a pub.

Daniel Travers, defending, told the court: "It appears that the loss of his mother seems to have had an impact on him, but clearly alcohol is one of the key factors in relation to this incident. There does appear to have been a history of callouts to the address, and there does appear to be reference to him calling the police on her.

"Clearly, the defendant's behaviour on that evening was cruel and will have had a substantial impact on her. It would have been incredibly humiliating and frightening.

"This does appear not to have been the most serious physical injuries. This is his first conviction in a domestic setting.

"It may be that this custodial sentence will enable Mr Cairns to reflect on his behaviour. Clearly, he has had a positive previous relationship and a positive relationship with his children and a good work ethic.

"On release, he will seek secure employment and maintain those relationships with his children. He does, through me, apologise profusely."

Cairns admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm and intentional strangulation, with further charges of false imprisonment, intentional suffocation and making threats to kill ordered to lie on the file after his guilty pleas were deemed acceptable by the Crown Prosecution Service. Appearing via video link to HMP Altcourse, he was jailed for three years and four months.

Sentencing, Judge David Aubrey KC said: "You not only assaulted your victim, you humiliated her. You degraded her and you stripped her naked.

"I am satisfied that you are a jealous, possessive and obsessive man. It is difficult to imagine the fear, apprehension and anxiety that she must have been feeling.

"She was struggling to breathe. She believed that she was going to die.

"She tried to fight you off, but it was a forlorn task because you were much stronger than her. You even said to her, such must have been the nature and length of that act of strangulation, 'why are you still breathing, why are you still alive?'.

"You then started to bite her check and nose, and then graphically stated 'I'm going to bite it off and swallow it so that they can't stitch it back on'. You then even asserted 'I'm sorry but you need to die, you need to die'."

"There is very little mitigation, other than your plea of guilty. I take into account everything that has been advanced on your behalf realistically and eloquently by Mr Travers, your counsel.

"In my judgement, you do represent a significant risk of causing harm to members of the public in the future but this court is constrained to imposing a determinate sentence upon you as you do not have a relevant earlier offence. Furthermore, the maximum sentence in respect of each offence is one of five years imprisonment and I must give you credit for your pleas of guilty."

Cairns was also handed an indefinite restraining order. Judge Aubrey added at the conclusion of the hearing: "I want a full explanation from the reviewing lawyer who gave the instruction to counsel to accept the pleas that they did.

"My sentencing powers were limited. It is difficult to imagine what the defence, in particular to the allegation of false imprisonment, could possibly have been.

"I would have imposed a significantly longer sentence. Bearing in mind my assessment of the defendant, it would have been an indeterminate sentence."

Don't miss the biggest and breaking stories by signing up to the Echo Daily newsletter here