Roxie Jo-Anne Archer death: Man jailed for life for toddler murder

Ben Raftery
Image caption Ben Raftery was told he would serve a minimum of 18 years in prison

A man has been jailed for life for beating a two-year-old girl to death while her mother was in New York celebrating her 21st birthday.

Ben Raftery, 21, "forcibly and repeatedly punched" Roxie Jo-Anne Archer in March 2012 while looking after her in Ashton-under-Lyne.

Manchester Crown Court heard Raftery's girlfriend Sophie Archer had been taken to the US as a surprise by her father.

Raftery was told he would serve a minimum of 18 years in prison.

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.

'Appalling crime'

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".

Image caption A post-mortem examination found Roxie Jo-Anne Archer died from head injuries

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.

'Controlling murderer'

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".

She said: "Roxie was my life and I loved her more than anything in the world and still do and always will. She didn't leave my side for two years and when I was given a once in a lifetime trip to New York for my birthday, I trusted Ben to look after her.

"He told me he loved me and Roxie but he has killed her, taken her away, what I cherish most and he's torn my world apart."

Det Supt Denise Worth, from Greater Manchester Police, said: "Families go through difficult circumstances and I'm not sure a situation like this could have been prevented.

"Sophie was hoping the relationship was going to develop and she trusted him, and when you put your trust in someone you don't expect anything to come back at you in such a horrific situation."

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