Ex-girlfriend of murdered Fleetwood dad tells court: "I felt blamed for Michael's death"

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The former girlfriend who was on the cusp of rekindling her romance with a Fleetwood man when he was brutally killed by her jealous partner spoke in court today.

Michael Hart, 31, was stabbed 16 times by Stephen Derbyshire, 34, of Hawthorn Drive, Thornton, after he discovered racy text messages that he had exchanged with his girlfriend, Lisa Cardwell.

Tributes left at the scene of the crime

Tributes left at the scene of the crime

Mr Hart and Miss Cardwell had previously been in a relationship, and they had two children together.

At Preston Crown Court today, Judge Mark Brown heard how the two had fallen back in love, but had not yet told their respective partners.

READ MORE>>> Heartbroken mum of young man murdered in Fleetwood says killer 'will never be forgiven'

In the early hours of December 9 2018, after returning from a night out drinking, Derbyshire and Miss Cardwell became involved in an argument. He demanded to see her phone, eventually taking it from her and discovering the messages she had sent to Mr Hart.

Murder victim: Michael Hart

Murder victim: Michael Hart

She left the house with her two children and went to Mr Hart's sister's house. A short while later, Derbyshire also left, armed with a large kitchen knife, the court heard, that he intended to use to scare Mr Hart.

Shortly after 1am, Mr Hart received a phone call from his sister saying that Derbyshire had 'battered' Miss Cardwell, and he left his house to go and see her. Less than 10 minutes later, at 1.19am, Derbyshire deliberately drove his car into Mr Hart's vehicle as he travelled down Hatfield Avenue.

He chased Mr Hart on foot onto Broomfield Road and stabbed him repeatedly in the head, chest and neck.

Shedding tears in court today, Miss Cardwell said: "Michael was always there for me and the children. He was a committed father and the children absolutely adored him They were his world and everything he did was for his children.

Killer: Stephen Derbyshire

Killer: Stephen Derbyshire

"Although I was in another relationship Michael would come to the children's appointments with me and do all he could to be a good father. Michael was a big influence on their lives and his loss has left a big gap in our lives that will never be filled.

"On that night, the children witnessed Stephen Derbyshire assaulting me before we left the address. I tried my best to protect my children, but some days I don't have the energy or will to go out. The children are receiving counselling to come to terms with what happened. I'm also receiving counselling.

"I feel like I was being judged, and there was a lot of rumours circulating about me. I also felt blamed for Michael's death. I felt ostracised. I started thinking I could have prevented Michael's death.

"I was told by the police that Stephen was arrested, but I did not feel safe in the house. (The children) need to see me lock the doors and they will not go upstairs without me.

"Michael was such a lovely person, a devoted father, the love of my life. He was caring and generous. Stephen Derbyshire has committed a senseless, careless act that has destroyed so many lives."

A statement from Mr Hart's girlfriend, Janine Dagger, was also read out by prosecutor Francis McEntee.

He said: "She described the loss of MIchael as having ripped out her heart. He left her bed saying he'd be back in two minutes. It was 42 minutes later than she discovered he had been killed.

"She feels guilty when she feels happy or when she smiles, and she's uncertain as to how she can move on.

"She feels as if she and the broader family have been given a life sentence."

Derbyshire was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 20 years at Preston Crown today. He showed no emotion as his sentence was read out.