Killer of 21-month-old girl ordered to serve at least 20 years in jail

Matthew Cooper, PA
·2-min read

A babysitter has been jailed for life after inflicting fatal brain injuries on a 21-month-old girl in a “brutal assault” and then failing to seek medical help for about three hours.

Sean Sadler was ordered to serve a minimum term of 20 years after a court heard the murder of Lilly Hanrahan was the culmination of a string of offences linked to his “uncontrollable temper”.

Sentencing Sadler at Birmingham Crown Court, Mr Justice Saini said the 32-year-old had made “shameful and cowardly” attempts to cover up his role in Lilly’s death.

Sadler, of Coriander Close, Northfield, Birmingham, was convicted earlier this week after jurors heard how the “normal, happy” toddler was shaken and beaten with such violence that she suffered broken bones.

Lilly laughing
Lilly Hanrahan (West Midlands Police/PA)

The toddler died in hospital in November 2017, three days after suffering a fatal collapse while in Sadler’s sole care.

Before he was sentenced on Friday, the court was told Sadler had four previous convictions for offences of battery, starting with an attack in which he struck his then partner with a dog chain.

The offences, which led to court appearances in 2012, 2014 and 2017, also included an assault outside a social club in which a female victim was punched in the face without warning.

Eight members of the jury which convicted Sadler returned to court to see him being sentenced.

Imposing a mandatory life term, Mr Justice Saini told Sadler he had engaged in “subterfuge” and “trickery” to cover up an assault on Lilly committed around a week before her death.

The trial was told Sadler began a relationship with Lilly’s guardian in the spring of 2017, becoming a regular visitor to the home and often staying overnight.

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

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

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.

Mr Justice Saini, who imposed a concurrent three-year sentence for the earlier assault on Lily, told Sadler: “Mr (Jonas) Hankin QC, for the Crown, was right to describe you as a perpetrator hiding in plain sight.

“You are an accomplished liar. Sadly, you were able to convince (Lilly’s guardian) to allow you to have charge of Lilly.

“On one of those occasions when you were meant to be caring for Lilly, you committed a serious assault.

“You delayed seeking medical help for a number of hours and in doing so showed callous indifference to Lilly’s suffering. It must have been obvious to you that she was seriously hurt.

“This was a brutal assault, on any view, and you have shown no remorse.”