Life for river plunge killer father

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The Independent Online

A father who drove his two "defenceless" young children into a freezing river, killing his five-year-old daughter, was tonight beginning a life sentence in jail.

Christopher Grady was imprisoned for life with a minimum term of 15 years for the murder of his daughter Gabrielle Grady, which he had denied.

Mr Justice Lindblom, sentencing at Birmingham Crown Court, also gave the 43-year-old a ten-year jail sentence for the attempted murder of his son, Ryan Grady.

Both children were passengers in the car that Grady plunged into the River Avon in Evesham, Worcestershire, on February 11 last year.

Gabrielle, known as Gabby to family and friends, spent two hours trapped in the submerged vehicle and was pronounced dead three days later. Grady and Ryan survived after police and firefighters pulled them from the water.

The judge told Grady: "What you did on the 11th of February 2010 would horrify anyone who is or has been the parent of a young child.

"It would horrify any right-thinking person.

"You took the life of your daughter Gabby, who was five years old.

"You tried to take the life of your son Ryan, who was six.

"Those crimes were born of anger and self-pity."

Grady, of no fixed address, had denied both charges but was convicted last Friday.

The three-week trial heard that he had warned the children's mother, Kim Smith, that she had 10 seconds to say goodbye to them, before he drove into the water at Hampton Ferry.

Miss Smith, 37, said he arrived at her house in Abbot's Walk, Evesham, at around 9.15am, telling her to say goodbye, before driving away shouting the word "river". She said his face was "contorted" and "vile" with anger.

Jurors heard the pair had a volatile relationship and had frequently argued about Grady's access to the children after their break-up.

Eye-witnesses said the children screamed and banged on the windows of Grady's Vauxhall Vectra as he circled a field adjacent to the river before driving directly into the river.

Mr Justice Lindblom described Ryan and Gabrielle as "vulnerable" and "defenceless". He said Grady had put both of them in a state of terror and had betrayed their trust in him.

He told Grady: "In all of this, Ryan and Gabby were innocent. They were your children, they loved you. They looked to you for protection and support."

The judge added: "You took from Miss Smith her daughter, and from Ryan his sister. You left your family to grieve.

"She says that what you did has shattered everyone in her family.

"She says that what they go through every day is like a recurring nightmare."

The judge read an extract from Miss Smith's victim impact statement to the court in which she said: "I can see his (Ryan's) suffering every day, he lost his best friend in the whole world, his sister who he always thought he would have.

"I miss her so much it hurts every day. The hurt, the pain, it will never go away."

During the trial, jurors heard that Grady's life had been unravelling in the months leading up to the incident.

He had been evicted from his home, was having suicidal thoughts and feared Miss Smith was going to completely sever his access to the children, the court heard.

Giving evidence during the trial, Grady said he remembered little about how he ended up in the water and claimed he never intended to harm his children.

Defence QC Timothy Raggatt described the case as a "terrible tragedy" which would have an impact on more than one family for many years.

Mr Raggatt said Grady had been suffering from a depressive illness at the time of the murder and had never disputed the primary facts of the case.

"We are dealing with a man whose state of mind, in the widest sense of the word, is disturbed," he said.

On the court steps after the hearing, Miss Smith said: "I can't say I am wholly pleased with the minimum tariff Mr Grady has received today.

"However I do understand that this does not mean he will be released at 15 years.

"I would just like to restate my gratitude to all parties concerned in seeking justice for Gabby and Ryan.

"No sentence passed down today will change the fact that Gabby has gone and Ryan, along with the rest of us, will always suffer from this terrible loss."

Senior investigating officer Superintendent Steve Cullen, from West Mercia Police, said: "Today's sentence imposed by the judge reflects the horrific act that Grady committed that February day and the seriousness and gravitas of what he did.

"Whilst we hope the sentence brings closure to the family, we must recognise a little girl lost her life and a boy and his family will never be the same again. Nothing will ever compensate for that."