Updated 13 June 2017

ADHD dad sentenced for murdering four-year-old daughter

A sadistic father, who claimed he is not guilty of murdering his daughter because he suffers from ADHD, has been convicted and sentenced to 21 years in prison.


Carl Wheatley, a 30 year-old  South African supermarket worker living in Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom was found guilty of the murder of his own daughter and has been sentenced to life in jail for the crime.

Wheatley believed he is not guilty for beating his daughter to death. Instead, he plead guilty manslaughter with diminished responsibility as he suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), The Mirror reports.

Four-year-old Alexa-Marie Quinn was found beaten to death in the home she shared with her father on the 12th of March 2014, BBC News reports. During Wheatley's trial, the court heard gruesome details from the medical examiner on the case, Professor Rupert Risdon. He explained that Alexa had suffered extensive bruising on her entire body, particularly on her abdomen and legs. 

Extensive injuries

Wheatley claimed that he lost his temper with Alexa, but only hit her once. The prosecution proved that this simply wasn't the case and that the 4 year old was actually beaten multiple times over an extended period of time. Prof. Risdon explained that Alexa died of extreme blunt force trauma. In fact, her bodily tissue was so extensively damaged that a significant amount of fat was released from her cells into her blood stream, causing a fatal embolism in her lung, the Daily Mail writes.

Wheatley claimed that he called 999, the emergency toll free number in the UK, two minutes after the little girl stopped breathing, although the prosecution indicated that she may have actually been dead for hours. Bedford Today explains that while on the phone with emergency services, Wheatley admitted to hitting Alexa explaining that he "got a bit frustrated". 

In the days before Alexa's death, Wheatley also made a number of suspicious searches on Google, including searches about internal bruising, whether or not bruises can lead to infection and how a milk tooth can be put back.

When finding him guilty, the court acknowledged that Wheatley did in fact suffer from ADHD, but explained that this in no way affected his culpability.

Alexa had only been living with Wheatley for 2 months, after he was granted custody. Previously, Alexa was living in foster care after she was removed from her biological mother, Victoria Quinn. Wheatley had allegedly sought custody of Alexa as he wanted the government benefits that would come with raising the child. Wheatley was also in the process of applying for custody of another child of his from a another relationship.

Having previously been in trouble with the law for drug possession, disorderly behaviour, a racial offence coupled with his ADHD and anger issues, social services should have identified the potential risks in granting Wheatley custody of any child.

Can ADHD be an excuse for violence?

Carl Wheatley isn't the first abusive father who claimed that suffering from ADHD caused him to commit murder. In 2012, a two-month-old British baby was admitted to hospital with extensive injuries inflicted by her father, Tyler Vallance. She died 5 days later in hospital. While Vallance plead guilty, he suggested that suffering from both ADHD and Tourette's syndrome made him temporarily lose control. Read the full Health24 story here.

Can suffering from ADHD really cause someone to become so violent that they kill another person? Does suffering from the condition mean that you aren't responsible for your actions? To find out, we spoke to Dr. Peter Collis, a clinical psychologist specialising in ADHD.

Dr. Collis believes that ADHD, in certain circumstances, can significantly impair a person's self-control to the point that they can commit violence:

"This disorder can be understood as a disorder of impaired self control and thus includes impaired impulse control. They tend to act in the moment. Such persons could be motivated to act primarily on impulse at times, rather than carefully considered rational decision making which would take into account the consequences of their actions. Thus, this disorder, if uncontrolled, could well be a contributory factor with respect to various levels of violence."

This potential for violence can be identified ahead of time and can be managed if correctly identified. Dr. Collis explains:

"ADHD, if previously diagnosed and treated, would enhance rational self control and diminish the likelihood of irrational behaviour. This disorder is primarily a chronic neurological disorder which has psychological consequences. For this reason the appropriate management of ADHD would need to include the long term use of appropriate medication together with counselling."

Dr. Collis believes that the defence of reduced culpability on the basis that the defendant suffers from ADHD should be upheld in court in specific situations: "I do believe that it could be held as a factor contributing to diminished responsibility had this disorder not been previously diagnosed and treated."

While Carl Wheatley's impulsivity may have played a role in why he beat Alexa, it cannot be used as a defence for covering up the crime. Carl neglected to seek medical treatment for his daughter even though she suffered extensive bruising. Instead he only called 999 a few days after the initial beating when it was unfortunately too late to save Alexa.

Read more:

ADHD - a life lived in chaos

ADHD linked to earlier use of illicit drugs in teens


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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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