The mother of a three-year-old girl who was brutally killed by her stepdad after she refused to eat lunch has slammed his “incredibly lenient” sentence.
Hannah Butler, 29, was left shocked when Paul Marsh, 27 - who was found guilty of manslaughter - was handed an 11 year sentence - of which she says he will “likely serve just six years”.
Residential home carer, Marsh, had beaten Jessica Dalgleish, while her mum was at work covering a shift he had called in sick for.
He became angry after she would not eat a ham sandwich while he was trying to watch football scores on Sky Sports.
The 27-year-old claimed Jessica had fallen down the stairs and he had found her slumped behind the banister, on December 21 2019.
He sent a text to mum Hannah detailing the ‘accident’ and she insisted he call 999 while she rushed home - despite him calling a hospital visit “pointless”.
Jessica - who suffered from complex learning difficulties - was airlifted from Folkestone to King’s College Hospital in London, but died on Christmas Eve from fatal brain injuries caused by a cracked skull.
Marsh’s account of what had happened was unclear, prompting an investigation by detectives from Kent Police and his subsequent arrest.
After a trial at Maidstone Crown Court, Marsh was sentenced on December 20 2021 - leaving Jessica’s grieving mum “livid” at the sentence.
‘He killed her in cold blood because he wanted to watch football’
Hannah, from Sandgate, Kent, said: ‘’I’m just staggered that he was handed such a short jail term.
‘’It was 11 years but in reality he’ll serve six if that, it’s just disgusting considering what he’s done to my baby girl.
‘’He killed her in cold blood because he wanted to watch football on TV. I should never have allowed him around her, but I trusted him.
‘’She was extremely vulnerable, and he knew that.
‘’I thought he would be safe, I met him working in a care home, but how wrong I was.
‘’The trial proved that it wasn’t a one off, he’d hurt her before and gotten away with it because she used to bang her head a lot due to her disability.
‘’This has destroyed my confidence completely.
‘’I’m starting a petition for an appeal for a proper sentence.
‘’I won’t accept that the sentence he got fits his crimes and I won’t rest until we have justice.’’
‘He kept up his nice guy act in front of me at all times’
Hannah started dating Marsh in February 2019 after initially meeting at work in October 2017.
He moved in with her and her children in August 2019.
She said: ‘’He was a really quiet guy, he seemed good and kind.
‘’I never saw any different, he kept up his nice guy act in front of me at all times.
‘’I had no reason to be suspicious. ‘I’d even done full background checks on him before even letting him meet Jessica.
‘’Jessica was my life, I’d never have intentionally put her at risk.’’
‘He wasn’t even sick, he just couldn’t be bothered to go in’
On December 21 2019, Marsh called in sick to the care home he and Hannah both worked in.
With staff at dangerously low levels, Hannah agreed to go in for her shift early.
Hannah said: ‘’He wasn’t even sick, he just couldn’t be bothered to go in.
‘’It had become clear to me that he didn’t really like our job, not like I did.
‘’So I left Paul to look after Jessica because I trusted him.
‘’It was the worst mistake of my life.’’
At 3.15pm Marsh messaged his partner to say ‘you need to call me’ after she’d been at work for just a few hours.
On the call he explained that Jessica - who suffered from complex autism - had fallen down the stairs, but according to Hannah he “didn’t sound at all concerned.”
Despite this, the worried mum insisted he call 999 and left work to rush home.
She said: ‘’I got there as loads of paramedics were there - all gathered around.”
‘’I was beside myself,” she added
‘’Before we left to go to hospital, Jessica was taken in an air ambulance, he said: ‘I’m going to go down for this’.
‘’At the time I didn’t think much of it because I was so worried about her but later it dawned on me as a really strange thing to say.’’
After two days in hospital, Jessica died from her injuries.
Petition for a sentence review
Hannah and Jessica’s grandmother, Casey Jell, 49, have since started a petition asking for a sentence review for Marsh.
She said: ‘’If I could say anything to him now I’d tell him I hate him.
‘’If he couldn’t cope, why didn’t he just leave?
‘’He was a big man, how could he attack her like that?”
She added: ‘’Jessica’s life deserves more than the sentence he got.
‘’He still wouldn’t admit what he did or show any remorse at all. ‘It’s like because Jessica was disabled her life doesn’t matter.
‘’But she was an angel, she was my angel and now she’s gone.’’
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going.