Birmingham man found guilty of murdering toddler

UPDATE 26 March: Sean Sadler has been jailed for life today and will have to spend at least 20 years behind bars before being eligible to apply for parole.


“Lilly loved to dance!” These are the words of a grieving grandmother after a Birmingham man was found guilty today (24 Mar) of murdering her precious granddaughter.

Lilly Hanrahan was just 21-months-old when she was rushed to hospital with a catastrophic head injury and six broken ribs in November 2017. Although surgeons battled to save her, her injuries were unsurvivable and her life support was withdrawn three days later.

Lilly Hanrahan
Lilly died aged just 21 months

Lesley Hanrahan looked after her granddaughter for four months after she was born in February 2016 as her daughter was unable to care for the newborn herself, and until more suitable care could be found for her. Lilly was placed with a legal guardian and continued to thrive.

Lesley was able to see her granddaughter often. “She loved to dance!” she said. “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.”

See footage of Lilly here.

In Spring of 2017 the guardian began a relationship with Sean Sadler and he became a regular visitor to their home, often staying overnight. It wasn’t long before the guardian began to notice bruises on Lilly and photographed them from September 2017, even alerting Lilly’s nursery so they could monitor her.

On the afternoon of Sunday 19 November 2017 Lilly was left in Sadler’s care while the guardian went out. Sadler alleges that Lilly went to sleep on the settee, but sometime later she would not wake when he tried to rouse her, so he called an ambulance.

At hospital the extent of Lilly’s injuries became apparent when bruising was found on her scalp under her hair, and following her death extensive post mortem examinations revealed the head injury which killed her and six broken ribs. Experts believed these were non-accidental and the likely cause was that Lilly had been violently shaken and thrown against a soft surface, such as the armrest of a settee.

Sadly this was not the only abuse Lilly had suffered when it emerged that she had three fractured vertebrae in her spine and bleeding in her lungs which had happened some two to three weeks previously.

Sadler, of Coriander Close in Rubery, was arrested and ultimately charged with Lilly’s murder and wounding.

Sean Sadler
Sadler will be sentenced on Friday

During his trial at Birmingham Crown Court, 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. They were considered to be consistent with gripping with excessive force or being slapped.

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, aged 31, will be sentenced on Friday (26 Mar).

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