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Man battered disabled girl, three, to death

The mother of a disabled three-year-old girl brutally killed by her stepdad has slated his ‘incredibly lenient’ sentence.

Paul Marsh, 27, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Jessica Dalgleish, three, after he battered her when she refused to eat a ham sandwich while he was trying to watch football on TV.

Mum Hannah Butler, 29, was left shocked when Marsh was handed an 11 year jail term – and says he is likely to only serve six years.

Residential home carer Marsh had beaten the tot while her mum was at work, covering a shift he had called in sick for.

He claimed Jessica had fallen down the stairs and he had found her slumped behind the banister, on December 21, 2019.

Marsh sent a text to Hannah detailing the ‘accident’ and calling a hospital visit ‘pointless’ – despite her insisting he call 999.

Eventually the autistic little girl, who suffered from complex learning difficulties, was airlifted from Folkestone, Kent, to London’s King’s College Hospital.

Hannah Butler, 29, and her daughter, Jessica Dalgleish.
Jessica’ mum Hannah Butler wants her daughter’s killer to have his jail term extended (Picture: SWNS)
Jessica Dalgleish.
Jessica had suffered injuries in the run up to her death (Picture: SWNS)

She died there on Christmas Eve from fatal brain injuries caused by a cracked skull.

Marsh was later arrested by Kent Police after giving an unclear account of what had happened.

Last month he was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court.

But 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.

Paul Marsh.
Marsh had denied killing Jessica and child cruelty (Picture: SWNS)

‘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 went on: ‘(Jessica) 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.’

Now the family have started a petition attempting to get the Attorney General to review the sentence.

It comes after the sentences for Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ killers were sent for review and amid calls for Star Hobson’s mother and killer to have their jail terms extended.

Hannah added of Jessica’s case: ‘I won’t accept that the sentence he (Marsh) got fits his crimes and I won’t rest until we have justice.’

She had started dating Marsh in February 2019 after they had met at work two years earlier.

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.’

But on December 13, 2019 – just weeks before Marsh killed Jessica – Hannah had received a call from her nursery who were concerned about facial bruising.

‘The hospital just accepted it was due to her headbanging behaviour as did I,’ she explained.

‘Jessica had lots of difficult behaviours including pulling her hair out and bashing her head off things.

‘It never crossed my mind it would have been Paul hurting her.’

On the day of the incident, Hannah explained she had gone in early with staff at dangerously low levels.

She explained: ‘(Marsh) 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 saying ‘you need to call me’, before claiming that Jessica had fallen down the stairs.

Despite him not sounding concerned, the worried mum insisted he call 999 and left work to rush home, where she and paramedics found Jessica unresponsive on the sofa.

Hannah recalled: ‘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.’

Marsh, from Sandgate, Kent, denied manslaughter and cruelty to the child in the weeks before her death.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kimber, a senior investigating officer for the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, had said he had hoped that the sentence could ‘give Jessica’s relatives some sense of closure’.

But Jessica’s grandmother Casey Jell, 49, wrote in the petition: ‘Paul Marsh needs his sentence length reviewed, and a more appropriate sentence needs to be placed.’

Hannah added: ‘Jessica’s life deserves more than the sentence he got.’

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