Babysitter found guilty of murdering ‘normal, happy’ toddler

Richard Vernalls
·3-min read

A babysitter has been convicted of murdering a “normal, happy” toddler, after shaking and beating the youngster with such violence that she suffered a fatal brain injury and broken bones.

Sean Sadler, 32, was found guilty of the murder of Lilly Hanrahan by a Birmingham Crown Court jury on Wednesday, West Midlands Police said.

Lilly was 21-months-old when she was taken to hospital with a catastrophic head injury and six broken ribs, sustained at her home in Birmingham in November 2017.

Lilly laughing
Lilly Hanrahan (West Midlands Police/PA)

Although surgeons battled to save her, Lilly’s life support was withdrawn three days later.

Her maternal grandmother, Lesley Hanrahan, had looked after Lilly for four months after she was born in February 2016.

Speaking after Sadler’s conviction, the 70-year-old described how her granddaughter “loved to dance”, remembering how the youngster “would hear music and she was off”.

Speaking about the impact of Lilly’s death, she added: “I’ve got another grandchild, you know. And when you look at her, you’d think it was Lilly, and it kills me.”

The toddler’s mother was unable to care for Lilly when she was born so the temporary arrangement with her grandparent lasted until Lilly was found suitable care with a legal guardian, police said.

After being placed with that guardian, Ms Hanrahan was still able to see her granddaughter, and the youngster was said to be doing well.

Lilly Hanrahan death
Sean Sadler (West Midlands Police/PA)

But in the spring of 2017, Lilly’s guardian began a relationship with Sadler, who became a regular visitor to the home, often staying overnight.

The guardian began to notice bruises on Lilly, photographing them from September that year, and even alerting the child’s nursery so they could monitor the child.

Lilly was in Sadler’s sole care when she suffered a fatal collapse on the afternoon of November 19 2017.

Sadler, who denied murder, claimed Lilly had fallen asleep on the sofa after watching television, but that he later called an ambulance when he was unable to wake her.

But hospital doctors uncovered his lies when they discovered a raft of injuries including bruising to the scalp under her hair, bleeding behind the eyes – consistent with being shaken – and grab marks on her thighs.

A post-mortem examination found she had suffered a fatal head injury and six shattered ribs, with the cause likely to have been from being violently shaken and thrown against a soft surface, like a sofa arm.

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Sadler was also convicted of wounding, after further analysis uncovered a host of recent and healing injuries on the youngster’s body – a total of 40 injuries, including 20 to her head and neck.

The injuries were consistent “with gripping and excessive force or being slapped”, police said.

This included three fractured vertebrae and evidence of bleeding in her lungs, which could be dated to two to three weeks before she was fatally injured.

After the verdict, Detective Sergeant Al Darby, from the force’s homicide unit, said: “The death of a child is the most tragic of events and in these circumstances is shocking and incomprehensible.

“It has taken three years to bring Sadler to justice and I thank the medical experts for their diligence and tenacity in examining the evidence and putting it before the jury.

“I hope today’s verdict brings some solace to Lilly’s family – my thoughts are with them.”

Sadler, of Coriander Close, Northfield, Birmingham, will be sentenced on Friday.

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