Babysitter jailed for life after shaking and battering to death 21-month-old girl

  • By Pablo Taylor, ITV Central Producer

A man from Birmingham has been jailed for life after battering and shaking to death a baby girl left in his care.

21-month-old Lilly Hanrahan died three days after being admitted to Birmingham Children's Hospital in November 2017, when her life support was turned off.

Sean Sadler left Lilly, a "happy and bubbly" girl, with a catastrophic brain injury and six broken ribs.

He told emergency services the child had been ‘perfectly fine’ and that he had been unable to wake her after she took a nap.

Sadler was today (26 March) handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 20 years before he can be considered for release.

Sean Sadler Credit: West Midlands Police

Prosecutors said Lilly had been ‘forcibly shaken’, possibly involving impact on a surface such as an armrest of a sofa.

Sadler pleaded not guilty to murder but was convicted by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court.

During his trial, the jury heard from expert witnesses, who testified that they found multiple sites of recent and healing injuries on Lilly’s small body. They found a total of 40 injuries, including 20 to her head and neck and the rest to her body and limbs.

Today Sadler was also handed a concurrent three-year term for an attack on the toddler committed around a week before a fatal assault in 2017.

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 murder.

The judge said: "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."

Lilly’s home in Northfield

Lilly Hanrahan was born on 21 February 2016.

Shortly after, she was placed into the care of her grandmother, with another woman appointed as her special guardian.

Lilly's special guardian began a relationship with Sean Sadler in spring 2017.

On 19th November, Lilly was left in Sadler’s care while the guardian went out. A 999 call was made and paramedics arrived at Lilly's home to find her unresponsive. Sadler alleges that Lilly went to sleep on the settee, but sometime later she would not wake up.

Lilly’s grandmother Lesley says, “She loved to dance!” “She would hear music and her arm would shoot up in the air."

“I’ve got another grandchild and when you look at her, you’d think it was Lilly, and it kills me.”

She hopes Sean Sadler is sentenced to a lengthy spell behind bars.

West Midlands Police say child death investigations often take longer than other murder cases because of the length of time experts need to assess injuries. 

They say this can often be extremely difficult for the family involved, as they wait to discover the circumstances surrounding the death of their loved one.

  • Family liaison officer DC Jo Buchanan

Sadler will be sentenced on Friday 26th March.