The heartbroken mother of toddler Millie Martin broke down in tears as she thanked a jury for delivering justice for her murdered daughter in the North yesterday.
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 sentence 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 uncontrollably, 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.
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 in the weeks before she died.
McCarney (33), from Woodview Crescent in Trillick, always protested his innocence but chose not to give evidence in his defence.
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 each other.
One of McCarney's relatives sobbed silently in the public gallery as Mr Justice Stephens told him his crimes were beyond reason. "This despicable crime is almost beyond understanding," the judge said.
"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. "We've nothing to hide," one said. "Barry McCarney is an innocent man."
Outside the court, Rachael's brother Matthew Martin 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."