The mom of the tragic Hollie Ashurst says she will never be able to forgive her former partner for killing their baby girl.
Leanne Thompson was supposed to marry Daniel Ashurst when she rushed into a GP practice with the inert body of Hollie 14 months.
He had to take care of the young man in the family home. He shook her violently and left her with a “catalog” of serious injuries.
On Wednesday February 26, at the Manchester Crown Court, the 33-year-old was jailed for 12 years after a jury found him guilty of manslaughter.
He was found not guilty of murder.
Sentencing Ashurst, a judge told him that he “extinguished” the young Hollie’s potential when performing the “long and prolonged sequence of assaults on her” on February 28 last year.
Two and a half years ago, Leanne and Ashurst met in a pub in central Wigan.
Love blossomed quickly when they started dating.
In just two months they had moved together.
“He said his mother had thrown him out,” said Leanne, who is now 27 years old Manchester evening news.
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“I’m not entirely sure why.
“I had an apartment and he moved with me early enough in the relationship because he didn’t have a place to live.”
Leanne gave birth to Hollie on Christmas Eve, 2017.
She was immediately besieged by her “little bundle of joy”.
“I couldn’t have wished for anything better,” said Leanne.
“It came a little early, but it will always be my best Christmas present.
“I’ve always wanted a daughter to be able to dress her in nice pink clothes and watch her grow up in a mini version of me.”
As they watched Hollie grow up, the couple was enjoying family life.
Leanne agreed to marry Ashurst after he proposed that she go on vacation. They planned to tie the knot this year.
In early 2019, Leanne was looking to return to work as a beautician after her maternity leave.
He started working part-time from his home in Fleming Court, Wigan, before accepting a job in a salon in Ashton-in-Makerfield.
On the second day there, his life and his hopes for the future were destroyed.
Leanne remembers taking care of a client’s hair before receiving a phone call from Ashurst saying that Hollie had been rushed to the hospital.
“It was terrible,” he said.
“I hit the phone and ran as fast as I could.
“When I got to the hospital, it was horrible.
“The paramedics actually stopped and asked me if I was ready to see what I was going to see.”
Hollie had suffered multiple bruises and cuts in the head and neck, bleeding from the brain and eyes and a broken ankle.
A pathologist found that the child suffered a “non-accidental injury that results in excessive acceleration and deceleration of the head compared to the rest of the body, with multiple impacts on the head and face.”
Ashurst claimed that the injuries were the result of a series of falls.
After the doctors’ efforts to save Hollie failed, Leanne was left with the heartbreaking decision to turn off her daughter’s life support machine on the afternoon of March 1.
Looking back, Leanne says there were clear signs that something was wrong with Ashurst, who had taken drugs for depression and anxiety and had used cocaine – and drank alcohol most nights to help him relax.
He wondered why the police were waiting at the Royal Manchester children’s hospital when he arrived.
As he watched on the bedside table, frantically asking the doctors about Hollie’s condition, he says that Ashurst was distant and silent.
“He was standing away from Hollie while begging for his bedside,” he said.
“He never hugged me or tried to reassure me.
“Something was not adding up, I knew he had done something.
“On one occasion, I asked him if he had hurt Hollie and never said anything.”
When the medical staff asked Ashurst what had happened earlier in the day, he gave different and confusing accounts.
He was later arrested in hospital on charges of inflicting serious physical damage on Hollie, who became a murderer after his death.
During the three-week trial, it was revealed that Ashurst had suffered from depression and anxiety for years and had told a mental health nurse that she feared she would have difficulty coping with Hollie when Leanne returned to work.
Leanne says she was the first to know about both.
He said he had no worries about leaving Hollie with Ashurst.
“He seemed really happy with Hollie,” he said.
“The times he took care of him, he realized that they had a lot of fun. We had the best relationship.
“I never thought it would hurt such a child.”
While Ashurst was led from the pier on Wednesday morning, cries of “monster” and “baby killer” rained from the public gallery.
A jury had authorized him from Hollie’s murder, but found him guilty of manslaughter.
Leanne and her family said they were disappointed with that result – and the 12-year sentence handed down by Mr. Justice Dove.
“The sentence is in no way long enough,” said Leanne.
“It will only take five because it has been in custody for a year.
“He will be free when he is 40. It is disgusting.
“He is the most horrible and cowardly man ever.
“I will never forgive him.”
Every day since Hollie’s death has been a struggle for Leanne, but she speaks fondly of the good times they shared together as a mother and daughter.
In a court statement she read about how she would never be the same after the tragedy.
She revealed that she felt unable to return to work and received advice to help her cope with her pain.
Seeing other mothers with their children, listening to some songs and reading social media posts constantly upsets her.
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There is a memorial garden for Hollie at the Howe Bridge Crematorium in Atherton, but Leanne has trouble visiting it.
“I will always remember the good times with Hollie,” he said.
“This is how I managed to overcome every day.
“I try to remember all the good memories we had and all the good things we did together.
“We were so close. Nobody will ever take it away from us.
“She would have come everywhere with me, we would have done activities together, we would go to play in a group.
“He was always by my side. I did everything: I washed her, dressed her, wet her.”
After Hollie’s death, Leanne left the family home in Shevington and went to live with her parents in Tyldesley.
During each day of the trial, she was joined by several family members in court. Leanne said that their support was crucial.
“My family also suffered a lot,” he said.
“We all found it very difficult, but their support was amazing. We helped each other in the best possible way.”
Since then Leanne has found love and has a happy and loving relationship with her new partner Ben.
He says he offered unshakable support.
He runs his own business and works regularly outside the home, but took several months off from work to support Leanne and participate in the process every day.
“Ben was fantastic,” said Leanne.
“It took a lot and it wasn’t necessary. We knew each other before, but he didn’t know about Hollie.
“He could have left when he found out, but he decided to stay with me and give me all his support.
“He has been here every single day. His family should be so proud of him.”
Ben, who shares the surname Ashurst but has no relationship with Daniel, proposed to Leanne during a vacation in Fuerteventura in December.
He agreed to marry him and, with the process finished, the couple hopes for some closure so that they can organize their wedding.