A DJ who murdered his girlfriend's "outgoing, chatty" three-year-old daughter when he was supposed to be looking after her was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years today.
Delroy Catwell was told by Mrs Justice Nicola Davies: "It is difficult to conceive of a greater abuse of trust than that which you perpetrated in killing this vulnerable and defenceless young girl."
Catwell, 31, denied murdering Lylah Aaron but was found guilty by a jury at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday.
During a two-week trial, the court heard how Catwell, Lylah and the girl's mother Precious Chibanda shared a house in Beck Road, in the Shiregreen area of Sheffield.
On February 8, Catwell was left in charge of Lylah as her mother went to work at Derby Royal Infirmary as a trainee nurse.
The court heard how her mother returned later to find her daughter in bed and only later realised she was unconscious. She had suffered serious head injuries and died later in hospital.
Experts said Lylah suffered a brain injury consistent with being hit by a hard object. The post-mortem examination revealed her injuries were caused by "repeated impacts to her face and skull".
It also found bruises on her body consistent with being punched, kicked and slapped, and she had three broken ribs.
The examination showed she had been attacked before.
The jury heard how Catwell had complained about being sidelined as his girlfriend gave more attention to her daughter.
He described Lylah as demanding and clingy with her mother, taking time away from his relationship with his partner.
When Catwell gave evidence he tried to blame Ms Chibanda for attacking her daughter.
The judge said Lylah, who was aged three years and four months, was "an engaging, outgoing, chatty child".
She added: "On the previous day she had attended nursery. CCTV footage showed her running into nursery, seemingly without a care in the world.
"Lylah was in your care because her mother, Precious, was pursuing her chosen career as a nurse. Precious was studying at university and working at a placement in a hospital in order to build a life for herself and her daughter. It was her trust in you which permitted Precious to leave her much-loved and only daughter in your care. It is difficult to conceive of a greater abuse of trust than that which you perpetrated in killing this vulnerable and defenceless young girl."
Ms Chibanda left home at 5.30 that morning. Lylah was to go to nursery, it was "pyjama day" and Ms Chibanda left out pyjamas for Lylah to wear.
The judge told Catwell: "At 2.30 that afternoon you telephoned Precious to tell her that Lylah was unwell, she seemed tired and did not want to go to nursery, she wanted to sleep. As a result you had not taken her to nursery. Precious told you to let Lylah sleep. Unbeknown to Precious, at around midday you inflicted the injuries upon Lylah which were causative of her death.
"When Precious returned home at about 4 to 4.30 she went to see Lylah, who appeared to be asleep. Evidence has been given that an unconscious child would give the appearance of a sleeping child. Precious subsequently checked up on Lylah and shortly before 6pm attempted to wake Lylah only to find her to be unresponsive.
"Within 30 minutes, Lylah was at hospital where the full nature and extent of her injuries was discovered. Some six hours later, she was pronounced dead, her presenting injuries being deemed unsurvivable."
She had suffered multiple blows to the head, either from fists, feet, a blunt object or by the propelling of her head against such an object or a combination of both.
These impacts to her head caused a fatal haemorrhage and brain swelling. Bruising was also found on her body, in particular, to the bowel, this being caused by a heavy impact to her stomach. Four recent fractures of three ribs were present. These were considered to have been caused by squeezing.
The judge said it was undisputed that Catwell must have been the person responsible for earlier injuries inflicted three to five weeks before Lylah's death.
She added: "The injuries sustained by Lylah on the 8th February to her head, ribs and abdomen would have required considerable force.
"This slight child would have been wholly defenceless in the face of such a sustained assault. Compounding your actions, you allowed Lylah, who would have drifted into an unconscious state, to remain at home.
"You made no attempt to call for medical aid. For a matter of hours you knew that within the house was a badly injured young girl for whom you were responsible.
"You took no steps to alert any person to the need for help. On the contrary, the story which you gave Precious at 2.30 was intended to, and did, provide her with a false account of what had occurred such as to allay any concerns on her part."
She approached the sentence on the basis that it was a loss of temper which led to the assault, and also the earlier one, she said.
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