A sadistic dad was jailed for life yesterday for murdering his four year-old daughter just two months after winning custody of her so he could claim more benefits.
Supermarket worker Carl Wheatley, 31, was told he would serve a minimum of 21 years for battering Alexa-Marie Quinn in March last year.
St Albans Crown Court heard how the thug told a work colleague he would get a two-bedroom house and £1,700 in benefits if he won custody of the girl.
But instead of caring for her the father-of-two beat her for 10 days until she died.
Judge Andrew Bright QC said “sadistic” Wheatley wanted custody of his son more than Alexa and took it out on her when he lost his battle.
He smashed out her milk teeth and searched the internet for ‘how to reduce swelling’ and ‘what glue can I use to put teeth back in’.
The youngster also had injuries to her eyes where Wheatley had poked them with his fingers.
Judge Bright told him: “The beatings began ten days before her death.
“It is clear by what you have told police and psychiatrists that she gradually became lethargic and incontinent and her condition deteriorated.
“You failed to seek help and left her unattended while you went out shopping in the middle of the night.
“You knew all too well the serous harm you were causing her.
“You went out to buy ice cubes to reduce her swelling and made internet searches on how to glue milk teeth back in.
“You were very aware of what you were doing to that little girl.
“You took out your anger on Alexa because of your son who you have admitted you wanted to live with you more so than Alexa.
“But when it looked likely that you were going to lose the custody battle for him and you took it out on Alexa by repeatedly striking her.
“Your repeated assaults on her were to such an extent that they can only be described as acts of sadistic violence by the end of that period.”
Alexa-Marie was found dead at her home in Hatfield.
Wheatley claimed he called 999 two minutes after she stopped breathing but the court heard that she could have been dead for hours.
He told the operator: “I’ve had her for a few months, I got a bit frustrated with her and I harmed the poor child.”
Alexa-Marie had lived with Wheatley for just two months after he won a long battle with Bedford Borough Council.
She had been in the care of foster parents after being taken from her mother Victoria Quinn several years earlier.
Wheatley was also fighting for custody for another three year-old son, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who he had with another woman.
The judge accepted he suffered from ADHD at the time of the murder and anxiety but said this did not reduce his culpability.
Council officials have announced an independent review of all the agencies involved in looking after Alexa-Marie.
Jenny Coles, Director of Children’s Services at Hertfordshire County Council, said it would be carried out by the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (HSCB).
She said: “We are keen to see its results and will welcome any recommendations about any improvements to our services and in our work with vulnerable children and their families.”
Kevin Crompton, Director of Children’s and Adults Services at Bedford Borough Council, said they were also taking part in the investigation.
He said: “We are participating to examine every detail of this case and make sure that we learn everything possible from Alexa-Marie’s tragic death.
“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.”
Alexa-Marie’s mother Victoria Quinn, 31, said she has been “deeply traumatised” by the murder of her daughter.
In a statement she said: “My daughter Alexa-Marie was a wonderful little girl. She was funny, loving and a child you could never be angry with. She was beautiful on the inside and out.
“Myself and my extended family have been deeply traumatised by what Carl Wheatley has done.
“He has taken away an angel, a little girl so precious and our lives will never be the same.
“How anyone could cause such pain and suffering to someone so young and so sweet is truly beyond me.
“Alexa-Marie was taken from us in the cruellest of ways. We have been sentenced to a lifetime of pain knowing that we won’t ever see her again.
“She will never have the chance to make daisy chains or go to a school prom and we will never be able to celebrate happy occasions, such as birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s Day, because of what this man has done.
“Since the day Alexa-Marie died, we as a family have struggled to cope.
“However, hearing today’s verdict and knowing that Carl Wheatley will be in prison for a long time does at least serve some justice.
“I would like to thank my family for their never ending support.”
She added: “I would also like to thank all of the officers from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit who have investigated the case and supported us.
“Finally I would like to thank the Homicide Casework Team and other support services that have been of great help to me in recent months and will continue to do so.”
The court heard Wheatley, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, had previous convictions for a public order offence of a racially aggravated nature, disorderly behaviour and possession of drugs.
Jane Bickerstaff QC, mitigating, said: “He should never have been given a child to look after in the first place.
“The background checks on his condition [ADHD] and treatment of former partners should have rendered him unworthy.”