'Our sadness is overwhelming': Family's tribute to murdered Tina Billingham
The heartbroken family of murder victim Tina Billingham have spoken of their loss as her brutal partner Ronald Cooke started a jail sentence of at least 24 years.
Jack, one of her two sons from an earlier marriage, said: "A huge part of our lives has been taken from us. She was the joker of the family and he warm laughter will be sadly missed.
"Her family is left with a void that will never be filled. A piece of the jigsaw has gone and we were never given the opportunity to say goodbye.
"She would never have wanted us to be sad but our sadness is overwhelming. She was always willing to help others and would never have taken her own life no matter how hard it got."
Cooke, who had lived with Miss Billingham, 54, at a rented house in Granville Road, Old Hill for 17 years, was jailed for life after being convicted of her murder following a trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
He must serve at least 24 years before being considered for release by the parole board.
The foul tempered 55-year-old, who admitted being both physically and mentally abusive to the victim during their stormy relationship, stabbed her twice through the heart and liver with a sword stick before claiming she had killed herself.
The controlling car dealer launched the attack in his van as they drove to collect her elderly uncle from hospital on February 6. He was furious that this the trip delayed him travelling to view a cut price camper van he wanted to buy.
Cooke repeatedly prodded her with an empty drinks bottle as they argued over the issue and, when that did not produce the required result, grabbed the sword stick he regularly carried in the vehicle and stabbed her twice.
Then he drove to her GP's surgery at Rowley Healthcare in Hawes Lane, Rowley Regis where he told staff she had stabbed herself. They treated the victim until paramedics arrived to take her to hospital where she was certified as dead later the same day.
Cooke's cover story was undermined after police painstakingly checked CCTV taken from security cameras on the route he had taken in the van and discovered he made two stops on the journey which he had not mentioned.
One by Old Hill railway station lasted for over three minutes and is assumed to have been the location for the fatal attack in the van.
Detective Inspector Harry Harrison from the force’s homicide unit, said: "Cooke was clearly a bully and was the root cause of an awful lot of misery in Tina’s life. Arrogant to the end, he has shown no remorse.
"Men with his character traits have no place in a civilised society and he has now rightly been brought to justice."
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