May 2013

Jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering toddler Roxie in Ashton-under-Lyne

BEN

A bullying boyfriend who beat his partner’s daughter to death is facing life behind bars after being found guilty of murder at Manchester Crown Court.

Roxie, who was 23 months old, suffered a ‘devastating’ brain injury at Ben Raftery’s hands hours after her mum, Sophie Archer, arrived in New York for a birthday trip.

The 22-year-old mum jetted back to Manchester find her daughter on a life support machine.

The child died after the decision was taken to switch the machine off because Roxie was so poorly, and Sophie Archer split from Raftery, who had been violent and controlling towards her, shortly afterwards.

Mr Raftery, 21, who was not Roxie’s biological father, denied murdering her at the home they shared at Elizabeth Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, on the night of March 9 last year.

He has been sentenced to life in prison, to serve a minimum of 18 years.

Raftery had persuaded Miss Archer to leave the child with him, instead of with her grandma, claiming he wanted to ‘bond’ with her while he was away.

But, over the course of several hours, he thumped the child with such ferocity that she suffered brain damage.

Archer claimed the child fell ill after falling down the stairs. But the jury rejected his account after less than two hours of deliberation.

Kate Blackwell QC, prosecuting, said Raftery’s crime was aggravated by Roxie’s age and vulnerability, the position of trust Raftery had been in, and the ‘pain and suffering’ she had endured at his hands.

Ben Nolan QC, defending, said Raftery was immature, and claimed the fatal attack had come in a ‘sudden flash of temper’, possibly as the child cried.

Mr Justice Saunders, who is expected to sentence Raftery this afternoon, said no-one could have heard the trial without feeling ‘enormous sympathy’ for Roxie’s family.

He thanked the jury, saying the evidence would have put them through ‘considerable emotional trauma.’

More info on the case:

Roxie was due to be looked after by her grandmother, but the arrangement was changed by Raftery after he insisted he would care for her at the child’s house for a day.

The court heard Raftery spoke to Roxie’s grandmother on the phone at about 17:00 GMT on 9 March.

He told her Roxie had suffered an injury by walking into a door at a McDonald’s restaurant – a story he also posted on Facebook – but later admitted was a lie.

During his trial the jury heard Raftery, who was not the child’s father, dialled 999 at 00:30 GMT to say he had left a stair gate open and that Roxie had fallen down the stairs.

Roxie died the next day in Tameside Hospital, having suffered brain damage as well as extensive bruising and retinal haemorrhaging.

Sentencing Raftery, Mr Justice Saunders said it was an “appalling crime which involved a grown and powerful man inflicting a number of hard blows on a toddler which were sufficiently forceful to cause devastating brain damage from which she died”.

Sentencing Raftery, Mr Justice Saunders said it was an “appalling crime which involved a grown and powerful man inflicting a number of hard blows on a toddler which were sufficiently forceful to cause devastating brain damage from which she died”.

The court heard Raftery spoke to Roxie’s grandmother on the phone at about 17:00 GMT on 9 March.

He told her Roxie had suffered an injury by walking into a door at a McDonald’s restaurant – a story he also posted on Facebook – but later admitted was a lie.

The judge said Raftery made up the story to cover up an injury he had caused to Roxie. He added it was not the only injury inflicted on Roxie by Raftery.

Speaking outside the court, Roxie’s mother Sophie Archer described Raftery as an “evil, controlling murderer”.