The heartbroken mother of Millie Martin broke down in tears as she thanked a jury for delivering justice for her murdered daughter.
Rachael Martin wept as her former partner Barry McCarney was jailed for life after being convicted of killing the 15-month-old toddler in a savage assault.
McCarney sat impassively in the dock at Dungannon Crown Court as a judge said he would serve a lengthy term for the “despicable crime”.
However, Miss Martin (28), who was cleared of allowing her daughter’s death and cruelty through wilful neglect, broke down in tears as the verdicts were announced.
Sobbing, she said:”Thank you, thank you. Justice has been done for my daughter.”
Yesterday’s verdicts came a week before the third anniversary of Millie’s murder.
She died on December 11, 2009 at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children after suffering a fatal blow to the back of her head. Her death came just a few months after McCarney moved in to the home she shared with her mother in Enniskillen.
The harrowing 10-week trial heard how Millie sustained 21 fractured ribs, some of which were a month old, heavy bruising and a burnt finger before she died.
McCarney (33), from Woodview Crescent in Trillick, protested his innocence but chose not to give evidence. It took the jury of nine men and three women just three hours to unanimously convict him of Millie’s murder, grievous bodily harm and sexual assault.
McCarney showed no emotion, while members of Miss Martin’s family cheered and clapped. Her mother Margaret Graham and stepfather Noel hugged.
One of McCarney’s relatives sobbed silently as Mr Justice Stephens told him his crimes were beyond reason. The judge said: “This despicable crime is almost beyond understanding.
“This jury has clearly understood and you, for your part, should understand this simple
message — you are going to prison for a very long time.
“This is the point when you leave. I impose a life sentence.”
McCarney turned and nodded towards family members as he was led to the cells. One raised his thumb in an apparent show of support. Relatives protested his innocence as they left court. One said: “We’ve nothing to hide. Barry McCarney is an innocent man.”
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph minutes after the verdict, Miss Martin’s stepfather Noel described the outcome as “fantastic”.
He said the last three years had been “a terrible ordeal”.
Outside the court, Rachael’s brother Matthew spoke of his anger at the decision to bring charges against his sister.
“Rachael can finally be allowed to grieve properly now, free of the shameful innuendo that has surrounded her as a result of the police’s shocking decision to bring charges against her,” he said.
“And while she is happy to finally be left in peace to piece her life back together, she would like to point out that the conviction of that disgusting individual, cretin, and her justified unanimous acquittal from the charges wrongfully brought against her are not a victory. They are merely justice — justice for herself, her three-year waking nightmare and finally justice for little Millie.”
The trial had heard that in addition to the fatal blow to her head, Millie suffered other injuries at the hands of McCarney in the weeks prior to her death. These included 21 cracked ribs, seven of which were old and healing while the other 14 were inflicted under 10 days before her death.
The injuries were so severe that experts said they resembled those from a car crash. One said the fatal head injury was so severe, it would have caused instant blindness. As he was handed down the mandatory life sentence yesterday, McCarney was told he would be put on the sex offenders’ register.
He beat her, he abused her... yet no-one noticed anything wrong
By Adrian Rutherford
She was a little girl who never stood a chance. Once Barry McCarney, a violent bully with a raging temper, had gate-crashed Millie Martin’s idyllic childhood, the toddler’s life changed for ever.
Within weeks of meeting and forming a relationship with Millie’s mother, Rachael, the thug had started to abuse her vulnerable, defenceless daughter.
He beat the 15-month-old child senseless, leaving her with 21 fractured ribs, bruising and swelling.
Millie’s injuries were so traumatic that medical experts later suggested they were comparable to those sustained in a high-speed car crash.
Crucially, warning signs were missed by relatives, neighbours and even the family doctor.
Perhaps it was not surprising. McCarney was a convincing and accomplished liar.
He had fooled Miss Martin, a “quite sensible” young mother who doted on her daughter.
She recalled a “charming and very loving” man who treated her “like a princess”.
But McCarney failed to convince a jury, who yesterday found him guilty of one of the most shocking murders in Northern Ireland’s recent history.
The violent, harrowing final hours of Millie Martin’s life contrast with the image of a loving and smiling toddler which her family remember.
Her mother recalled a child who was “happy, playful and adorable”, adding: “She was just a real good wee baby, a class wee thing.”
Albums with hundreds of photographs shown to the jury suggested a loving relationship between mother and daughter.
There were also family videos showing Millie taking her first steps and dancing.
But everything changed when Rachael Martin and Barry McCarney’s worlds collided one day.
It was a chance meeting while McCarney was staying at the home of his distant cousin, who was also Rachael’s father.
“He couldn’t have been nicer to Millie,” Rachael recalled.
Up until the night of the toddler’s death, she claimed to trust him “100%”.
It was that blind, ultimately fatal devotion which exposed Millie to another, much darker, side of McCarney.
Not realising his true character, Rachael overlooked the bumps and knocks from apparent accidents.
In the weeks before her death, the toddler had sustained unexplained bruising to her body, a burn to her finger. A large lump had appeared on
her forehead. Millie also became “clingy” and was scared of her own cot.
In the mornings, instead of playing with her toy mouse Mimsy, Millie just lay in bed.
“Looking back, she was scared to go to bed,” Rachael recalled. “It was totally unexplainable.
“She didn’t like the house any more. She cried when we pulled up.”
The high number of apparent accidents didn’t appear to point to what Millie was enduring.
Family doctor Torsten Jentsch examined Millie’s finger, which had been accidentally burnt by a candle, on December 9 — just two days before her death.
Giving evidence during the trial, the GP said he could not recall anything which concerned him. Neighbours and relatives who had noticed bruising didn’t raise concerns. In the hours before her murder, Millie was said to be sleepy and drowsy. It was put down to a severe dose of flu.
A social worker remarked that Millie’s family only began to realise what had happened when she was rushed to hospital following McCarney’s assault.
“As the day wore on the penny seemed to be dropping,” Pamela Campbell recalled.
“Granny (Margaret Graham) in particular was blaming herself, asking why they hadn’t noticed things.”
She was said to have “gone mad” when Rachael revealed he had offered to look after Millie.
The day of Millie’s murder, December 10, 2009, began just like any other. McCarney had gone to work at the site of the new Erne Hospital as normal, but after a short time complained of feeling unwell. He called Rachael and she brought him back to their home at Glebe Park in Enniskillen.
Later that night, she went to a nearby shop to get chocolate, leaving the toddler alone with McCarney.
The full story of what happened in those lost minutes may never be known.
A neighbour recalled McCarney banging at his door holding Millie in his left arm. He said McCarney appeared “very anxious” to get her to hospital.
They rushed to the Erne Hospital’s A&E department. CCTV images show McCarney cradling Millie, at one point he even kissed the dying toddler.
Nurses who tended Millie described how she was “unresponsive”, “grey” and “very pale”.
They were immediately suspicious, spotting injuries to Millie’s body. Bruises and swelling consistent with a sexual assault were found.
Millie was transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, but it was too late. She was already brain dead. The following day, December 11, Millie Martin was pronounced dead.
McCarney was arrested and questioned, denying he had anything to do with her death.
He did not convince detectives and, four days later, appeared at Omagh Magistrate’s Court charged with Millie’s murder.
At 3.10pm yesterday, after deliberating for just three hours, they unanimously convicted the 33-year-old of murder, grievous bodily harm and sexual assault.
McCarney will spend many years in prison, years which little Millie Martin was cruelly denied.
At first he treated Rachael like a princess... but when they set up home he became a monster
By Adrian Rutherford
Rachael Martin with her mother Margaret outside court yesterday and (left) Barry McCarney, the man she said turned into a maniac during their life together alan Lewisby adrian rutherford
A loving mother, Rachael Martin’s mistake was falling for the wrong man. Martin (28), met Barry McCarney, a violent and abusive thug with a raging temper, while he was staying at her father’s house in mid-2009.
She described being instantly attracted to his seemingly charismatic and warm personality.
“He was charming and very loving,” Rachael recalled at trial. “He treated me like a princess.”
Soon, the new couple were living together in Enniskillen.
Rachael said she trusted him “100%”, adding: “He couldn’t have been nicer to Millie.”
Tragically, by the time McCarney’s true personality emerged, it was too late. Later, Rachael described him as a “maniac”.
“I didn’t know I had a monster in the house,” she said.
Prior to meeting McCarney, Rachael showed all the signs of being a good mother.
Family GP Dr Torsten Jentsch told the trial that she appeared “quite sensible”. Rachael, he added, was “always helpful” where Millie was concerned.
In police interviews, Rachael recalled how she lived for the toddler, telling detectives: “My whole life’s just wrecked now.”
She added: “I have to live the rest of my life without seeing my daughter growing up … and never hearing the word ‘mummy’ again.”
Although Rachael had been blinded by love, her family became increasingly unhappy at McCarney’s involvement with Millie.
On one occasion, her mother, Margaret Graham, had “gone mad” when she realised he had offered to look after the toddler.
It was unsurprising, given McCarney’s lifestyle and temper.
Born in Trillick, Co Tyrone, he grew up in Irvinestown and has two children from another relationship.
With little academic ability, McCarney drifted from job to job. But despite vast periods of unemployment, he always had money. Bizarrely, he never went anywhere without his passport.
In the days before Millie’s death, McCarney had been working as a labourer at the building site of the new Erne Hospital.
A man who knew him said: “Barry always had a temper. You could tell he could be a nasty piece of work.
“His family always insisted he was innocent of Millie’s murder. I think he convinced them.”
McCarney chose not to take the stand at his trial, but previously told police that he “tried to be a dad” to Millie.
“She’s a beautiful child, a beautiful girl,” he said during interviews. “She’s joyful, she’s just your average one-year-old learning to talk.”
McCarney said he was”disgusted” by what had happened to Millie, claiming that he “wouldn’t harm a hair on her head”.
“I’m disgusted by the injuries that Millie had,” he added.
Brazenly, McCarney had told Rachael that she could trust him as he was arrested by police in the Erne Hospital on suspicion of sexually assaulting Millie.
“Don’t listen to what he says — trust me,” he told her.
But it took the jury just three hours to clear Rachael of involvement in her daughter’s death, while finding her former partner guilty of murder, grievous bodily harm and sexual assault.
Unlike Rachael Martin, they were not fooled. They saw the real Barry McCarney.
‘She was just a real good baby, a class wee thing’
By Adrian Rutherford
Happy, playful and adorable, little Millie Martin brought so much joy to her family.
Born on September 5, 2008, she was just 15 months old and defenceless when her life was brutally ended.
She died on December 11, 2009, at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children from head injuries after a savage assault by Barry McCarney.
The trial heard that the first year of Millie’s life had been “normal and unexceptional”. She had started walking by her first birthday.
Her mother Rachael recalled Millie as “funny, clumsy, just a real good wee baby. A class wee thing”.
However, everything changed when she came into contact with McCarney.
In the weeks before her death, Millie suffered horrific injuries including bruising to her face and body, a burnt finger and 21 fractured ribs. She was also sexually assaulted.
The toddler was terrified of McCarney and scared to sleep in her cot. Instead, she became increasingly “clingy” around her mother. A mobile phone video three days before her death showed Millie dancing with Rachael’s stepfather, Noel Graham, to the Galway Girl song.
In an earlier, separate clip recorded when McCarney was present, she could be seen nervously glancing towards him. There was no smiling or dancing.
Grim case shows that abusers will be punished
By Neil Anderson
The unfolding tragedy of Fermanagh toddler Millie Martin has engendered horror, as we struggle to comprehend how anyone could inflict such unspeakable abuse on a toddler.
Millie endured a catalogue of physical and sexual abuse.
While this case has highlighted the need for vigilance around the welfare of the vulnerable, it has also demonstrated that those who abuse their power can and will be brought to justice.
At June 30, 2012 almost 2,000 children were listed on the Child Protection Register in Northern Ireland. That said, not all children at risk are known to social services.
For those children who are being maltreated, but are invisible to services, their only way of receiving help is if those around them speak out about their concerns. In many cases the vigilance of friends, family, neighbours and health professionals is vital in the prevention of neglect and abuse.
In 2011/12 the NSPCC Helpline made 353 referrals for Northern Ireland, involving 717 children. Young children are incredibly vulnerable — they cannot articulate their experiences and are totally dependent on others identifying warning signs.
While we are determined that there can be no ‘get out of jail free’ for those who harm children, we are equally committed to providing support for those who simply need additional support as they parent.
We want to break the cycle of abuse and poor parenting, support families struggling with issues such as mental illness, domestic abuse and substance and alcohol abuse, and tackle resistance to professional intervention.
By working together as a community, being vigilant and helping parents to help themselves, we can work to end the suffering of vulnerable children.
Reaching out for help must not be seen as a betrayal or a failure — it is a courageous act, through which we can help to protect children like Millie who cannot speak up for themselves.
If you are concerned about a child, don't wait until you're certain — contact the NSPCC on 080 8800 5000, email firstname.lastname@example.org, text 88858 or visit www.nspcc.org.uk/|reportconcern. You can remain anonymous if you wish.
Neil Anderson is the head of NSPCC’s services in Northern Ireland