Breaking news: Dad found guilty of murdering his four year old daughter

Carl Wheatley with his daughter Alexa-Marie Quinn.
Carl Wheatley with his daughter Alexa-Marie Quinn.

A single dad who beat his four year old daughter to death just three months after being granted custody of her has been found guilty of her murder.

Carl Wheatley, 31, had convinced social workers that he could look after his young daughter, Alexa-Marie Quinn, who had been in foster care under Bedford Borough Council.

But soon after she moved in with her father, the little girl was being subjected to systematic violence.

On the day of the youngster’s death, such was the severity of the blows he struck to little Alexa-Marie that fat cells were released into her bloodstream, which blocked her lungs.

On Wednesday, a jury at St Albans Crown Court found Wheatley guilty of his daughter’s murder.

He had denied the charge during a three week trial, pleading guilty instead to her manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but the jury rejected submissions by his defence team that because he had ADHD and Autism, he was not guilty of her murder.

Trial Judge Andrew Bright QC told Wheatley that he will be sentenced on Friday.

The only sentence Wheatley can receive is a life sentence, but the judge will tell reveal the number of years he must spend behind bars before being considered for parole.

Little Alexa-Marie died on the morning of March 12 last year at the home where she had been living with her father in Hatfield.

Wheatley had called 999 for help just after 9am but the little girl had already stopped breathing by the time paramedic arrived.

A later post-mortem examination discovered her body was covered in bruises.

Professor Rupert Risdon, who carried out the examination, said he had never seen injuries like those suffered by the four year old.

He found 65 separate bruise marks all over her, but it was the 66th bruise which had caused her death.

This was described in court as one massive bruise that stretched from her abdomen down her thighs and buttocks to her lower leg and was the result of ‘sustained, persistent hard hitting’.

Just months before her Alexa-Marie’s death, in December 2013, Wheatley had won custody of her.

The little girl had been taken from her mum some years earlier and was living with foster parents in Bedford.

Wheatley was also fighting for custody of another three year old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Following the guilty verdict, director of children’s and adults services at Bedford Borough Council Kevin Crompton said: “Alexa-Marie Quinn’s death at the hands of her Father has been hugely distressing for everyone involved and we welcome the guilty verdict today.

“Our thoughts remain with her family and all those who knew her during her tragically short life.

“We can confirm that Alexa-Marie had lived in Bedford before her Father was granted custody of her by the courts and her move to Hertfordshire.

“We are participating in a Serious Case Review with colleagues from the Hertfordshire Children’s Safeguarding Board to examine every detail of this case and make sure that we learn everything possible from Alexa-Marie’s tragic death.

“While this review is ongoing it would be inappropriate to speculate on its outcomes. Once completed, these findings will be published and any learning identified will be used to help shape the way that all agencies work to keep children safe.”