As child killer Darren Bennett started a life sentence yesterday for the murder of his girlfriend's 18- month- old daughter, a mother-of-two relived the trauma of seeing her own toddler attacked by him.

Bennett was jailed in 2002 for three years for his brutal attack on three-year-old Rosie Chalmers, which left her with 40 bruises and purple marks from his fingers around her neck. Four months after his release from prison for attacking Rosie, Bennett killed 18-month-old Jordan McGann.

Miss Chalmers said her daughter, who has just celebrated her seventh birthday, had been lucky to escape the same tragic fate.

"I cried with happiness when I heard he had been jailed for life, " she said.

"Justice has finally been done. Hopefully, for a long time, mothers and their young daughters will be safe from him."

Miss Chalmers - not her real name - was 18 when she met Bennett on July 25 2001 and he moved into her Bordesley Green home uninvited shortly afterwards.

For the first month of the relationship, he impressed her with the tenderness he showed towards her daughter, treating them to a trip to Birmingham's Sea Life Centre.

A month later, she saw a new side to him when he lashed out at her for breaking her foot. His behaviour deteriorated even further and by September that year Miss Chalmers found the courage to tell him to go, but he refused to budge.

"He told me he was going to be in my life for 18 months because my daughter needed him. I discovered he was cheating on me and I hoped it meant he would leave. He terrified me."

On October 25, his violence took a horrifying new turn.

"It was about 7pm and I was in the kitchen washing and I heard this noise, like a whimpering," she said.

"I looked down the hallway and saw him flinging her against the wall. When he saw me he stopped and hit me with the back of his hand. I screamed, 'what are you doing to my daughter?'

" At the hospital they counted 30-40 bruises on her body. She had black bruises in the shape of his fingers round her neck and a handprint on her bottom. He had done something to her foot because she couldn't walk properly afterwards.

"He knew I wanted to escape and warned me if we did he would find us." When Bennett eventually left, Emily fled to Rosie's father's house and then to a women's refuge.

Later that day, he was picked up by police and he was eventually convicted of assaulting the little girl and jailed.

Fortunately, the attack has caused no permanent physical damage to Rosie. But the emotional scars have taken longer to heal.

"Before, she was a happygo-lucky girl who never cried," said Miss Chalmers. "But she went through more in those few minutes than most people go through in a lifetime."

The pair rebuilt their lives in a different part of the city, but when Bennett was released in April 2004, Emily got a chilling phone call.

"It was him," she said. "He said he had served his time and could we give it another go? I couldn't believe it. I wanted to warn any woman he met not to go near him. When I heard about what happened to Jordan I sat there and cried, thinking how Jordan didn't have a chance at life and how it could have been my daughter."

Now he has been jailed for life, Miss Chalmers said she and her daughter felt free.

* The real names of Emily and Rosie Chalmers are not being used for legal reasons.