A heartbroken woman has relived the moment her husband’s killer strode past her moments after the death.
Mark Roberts died after Ian Holden knifed him once in the chest as he returned to his home following a day of festivities.
The killer filmed the 52-year-old as he lay dead on the floor, Manchester Evening News reported.
Jane Billington, Mark’s partner, has opened up about the tragedy for the first time since his death.
She spoke of how Mark had repeatedly been plagued by Holden’s behaviour, and had begun to fear him towards the end of his life.
Social worker Jane, 55, says: “Mark and I were soulmates, we were so good for each other. I was worried about Holden, we all knew he was a problem.
“But never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine he would end Mark’s life.
“On the night of his death, we had both been out together, and I went home and stopped to talk to my neighbour along the way.
“Holden marched past us – moments after stabbing Mark – but of course I didn’t know that then.
“Mark’s death has left me devastated. But I am determined he should be remembered as a man with a big heart who brought so much laughter and happiness into my life.”
Mum-of-one Jane, from Wirral, met Mark through friends in July 2011, and would later described their getting together as “like fate”.
“We were friends at first and then Mark bought me a huge bouquet of flowers and asked me out on a date,” she said.
“He was very funny and romantic, and our relationship was pretty intense. He bought me flowers and booked us a horse and carriage.
“He sang ‘Annie’s Song’ to me, and I now have the words of the song inscribed on his memorial bench.
“We were very much in love and never apart.
“We went away on brilliant holidays and Mark had a great sense of adventure – we hired jeeps and went snorkelling and scuba diving. He persuaded me to push my boundaries.”
The couple, both dog-lovers, moved in together and got a Jack Russell, Casper.
It was through the dog that Mark would meet the man that would go on to kill him.
Jane says: “One day we were on the beach with Casper and a stranger told me I needed to train my dog better.
“I thought nothing of it, except that he seemed rude. But this was the man who would later go on to kill Mark.”
After the death of a close friend, Mark became depressed and the couple’s relationship ran into difficulties.
Jane continued: “We decided to live apart, to give each other space, but we continued seeing each other. We actually got engaged over the summer of 2019, to confirm our commitment.”
In summer 2019, Mark moved into a new flat.
Jane says: “The day Mark moved in, I met his neighbour and recognised him as the man from the beach who had criticised our dog. Holden was off-hand and rude from the start.
“He stood at his doorway, smoking cannabis, and staring at us.”
From then on Mark had his difficulties with Holden.
Jane says: “Holden was at war with all of the residents in the block. He had six dogs in a tiny flat, there was dog mess all over and one dog was really aggressive. Everyone complained about him.
“Once when I visited, Holden started filming Mark in the communal foyer. He was intimidating and unnerving. I tried to avoid him as much as possible.
“On another occasion, I couldn’t get out of my car because Holden’s dog was snarling at my car door. But he wouldn’t intervene. He seemed to thrive on other people’s misery.
“One of Mark’s relatives had a run in with Holden and she actually said: ‘Watch him – he could put a knife through you.’ It was a flippant remark but horribly prophetic.”
In November 2019, Mark was reunited with his adult son who he had previously lost touch with. Jane and Mark then spent Christmas and New Year 2019 together.
Jane says: “We went to the pub on New Year’s Day but at about 10pm I went home because I was exhausted. Mark was staying to finish his drink then he was off home too.
“On my way back, I got chatting to a neighbour. Holden came storming past as we talked – little did I know, but he had just stabbed Mark to death.”
Jane went home but heard police sirens and the helicopter overhead.
She says: “I found out on social media that someone at Mark’s block had been attacked. I ran to the flats and it was cordoned off.
“A police officer told me Mark had been stabbed to death. I just didn’t believe it.
“But it made sense when Holden was arrested. I felt as though he was a tragedy waiting to happen.”
Mark was buried on his 53rd birthday, on February 10, 2020.
Jane says: “I had nightmares about Mark’s death, where I saw him die, over and over. I used to go his flat every day, hoping to see him there. I was in denial, unable to accept the magnitude of the tragedy.
“The police told me that after Holden killed him, he filmed his body, saying: ‘Is he acting?’
“It haunted me that Mark had suffered so much. Holden showed him no respect and no dignity, even as he lay dying.
“The complex where Mark lived was quiet and respectable – his death was a shock for everyone in the area.”
Holden appeared at Liverpool Crown Court in December 2020 and was jailed for life.
Holden admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility after prosecutors agreed to not pursue a murder trial.
The court heard Holden had 39 previous convictions including making threats to kill, possessing a two foot long machete and at the time of the killing he was the subject of a community order for sending messages in which he threatened to cut off the heads of BT staff and stab people in the face.
Neighbours reported previous incidents where he had stood in the communal garden twirling a machete around his head.
After stabbing Mark in an argument in the foyer, he had removed his top, even though it was winter, and gone for a walk with his dogs.
Judge Flewit said: “You chose to escalate the confrontation with Mark Roberts by arming yourself with a knife sufficiently large to cause a wound five centimetres long and 11 centimetres deep.”
The judge accepted the evidence of two psychiatrists that Holden was suffering from a schizophrenic affective disorder at the time of the killing and there is evidence of borderline personality disorder with traces of paranoia and narcissism.
He also accepted that Holden had tried to get help for his mental health.
He ruled that he poses a significant risk of causing serious harm by committing similar offences “for a period of time that cannot be predicted with any certainty.”
Holden is now being looked after in a mental health facility.