Cassie Hayes Picture: Facebook

London - A travel agent whose throat was slit in front of her horrified colleagues had been caught up in a ‘love triangle’ with a body builder and his bisexual ex-lover, friends claimed on Sunday night.

Cassie Hayes, 28, was killed on Saturday in Southport, Merseyside, at the branch of Tui where she was assistant manager.

As police charged a 30-year-old man – named as Andrew Burke – friends said she had been involved in an on-off relationship with Laura Williams, who had previously been engaged to Burke.

After the couple split, Burke was apparently involved in a custody dispute with his ex-fiancee over their daughter.

Leah McDonald, who herself had a four-year-old daughter with Miss Hayes, told the Daily Mail that Burke ‘was jealous and wanted her [Miss Williams] back’.

‘I had Cassie on the phone crying about it many times. He had even been in the [travel agents] shop a couple of times before this.’

The 31-year-old shop worker said Miss Williams, 28, and 30-year-old Burke had been going through a custody battle over their young daughter and had been due in court last Friday.

Miss McDonald said the suspect had previously bombarded her with messages through social media suggesting he blamed Miss Hayes for the loss of his former fiancee. Miss McDonald said: ‘I am just completely numb.’

She met Cassie Hayes on a dating website in 2007 and they were together until 2015. They ‘hit it off straight away’ and Miss Hayes moved south from the market town of Alnwick, Northumberland.

They had a daughter Ruby, now four, but split after her birth because they ‘lost the connection’, although the youngster stayed with Miss Hayes three nights a week.

Fighting back tears, Miss McDonald said: ‘She woke up this morning and asked if she was stopping at mammie’s tonight because she always stops on a Sunday.’ Miss McDonald said she was waiting for Miss Hayes’ mother and sister to arrive from the North East before breaking the news of the tragedy to Ruby.

‘I just feel so sorry for her family,’ she added. ‘My heart is breaking for them more than anything.

‘Cassie lost her dad when she was young so it was just the three girls – her mum, sister and Cassie.’

She added that despite their split the two women remained close and that she had promised her family she would look after her.

‘She was very funny and witty. She was just amazing and I still loved her. She was literally the best thing that I could have had in my life. We were just best mates.’ Writing earlier on Facebook she described the victim as ‘my absolute world from the first moment we met’. She added: ‘She’s just a gem.’

Speaking last night from his home in Alnwick, where Miss Hayes attended The Duchess’s Community High school, her devastated uncle Vincent Fife, 55, paid tribute to his ‘bubbly and lovable’ niece.

‘Cassie’s dad died when she was around 14 and I was like her step-dad, we were really, really close,’ the joiner said. ‘I didn’t want her to move away, it was so far. If you didn’t like Cassie it meant there was something wrong with you. She was so little, she wouldn’t have stood a chance. It makes no sense.’

Miss Hayes was stretchered out of the shop shortly after 1.25pm on Saturday and later died in hospital from her injuries.

Eyewitnesses told how they were ushered into other shops and locked in as police descended. Delivery driver Rich Lawson, 27, said: ‘There was a lot of blood and she looked like she was unconscious.’

Police yesterday said a post-mortem examination showed the cause of Miss Hayes’ death was shock and haemorrhaging as a result of a wound to the throat.

Miss Williams is said to have ‘idolised’ Miss Hayes and raced to the hospital after the attack.

Debbie McAllister said: ‘Laura is devastated. I’ve never seen her so happy since she’s been with Cassie. They had been together 13 months.’

One of Miss Hayes’ ex-colleagues Gordon Campbell, 44, paid tribute to the mother saying he would always remember the sound of laughter when they worked together.

Describing her as ‘a little slip of a girl’ with ‘an absolute heart of gold’, he added: ‘She will be most definitely missed by everybody that knew her.’

Yesterday a video emerged showing Miss Hayes in the shop where she was attacked, joking with colleagues. The clip showed her laughing, clapping and dancing with her fellow travel agents.

A fundraising appeal on website GoFundMe set up by Travel Gossip, an online community of travel professionals has already raised more than £4 000.

A spokeswoman for TUI said: ‘We send our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of the staff member involved.

‘We’re doing everything possible to assist the local police with their investigation and support our customers and staff at this difficult time.’

On Sunday night police said Andrew Burke, 30, of St Helens, had been charged with the murder of Miss Hayes. He will appear at South Sefton Magistrates on Monday.