Heartbroken mum of Hollie Ashurst: "I remember her cheeky smile, her laugh, her personality"

The heartbroken mother of Hollie Ashurst has spoken of her “miracle” baby who was always laughing.
'Miracle' baby Hollie Ashurst'Miracle' baby Hollie Ashurst
'Miracle' baby Hollie Ashurst

Leanne Thompson, 27, was “amazed” to discover she was pregnant and always believed her baby would be a girl.

She said: “I found out when I was five weeks and I was so, so excited. I couldn’t wait.

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“She was like a miracle really. I suffer from polycystic ovaries and was told quite young I might not be able to conceive or go full term.”

Leanne and a picture of smiling HollieLeanne and a picture of smiling Hollie
Leanne and a picture of smiling Hollie

A scan at 15 weeks confirmed she was having a little girl and Leanne held a gender reveal party, popping a balloon to announce this.

Twenty weeks into the pregnancy, Leanne was told her baby had cleft lip and palate, which could cause difficulties with feeding, and she was seen by specialist nurses.

The little girl was born on Christmas Eve 2017, three days before her due date, weighing 7lb 3oz.

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Inspired by the festive season, her proud parents decided to name her Hollie Mae Ashurst.

Leanne said: “I was made up. I had her on Christmas Eve and we spent Christmas in hospital at Wigan. They were fantastic. They brought presents and Father Christmas came. They were amazing.

“We came home the day after Boxing Day and settled in totally fine.”

The new mum discovered her tot liked to sleep and she was spending the night in her own bedroom by the time she was eight weeks old.

Little Hollie always seemed to have a smile on her face.

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“She was very happy, very smiley. She had a special smile because she had the cleft. Nothing ever fazed her. She was always laughing. Never ever was she unhappy,” Leanne said.

Hollie had two operations, one at three months for her cleft lip and the other at seven months for the palate, and they both went well.

Her mum said: “They never seemed to get her down. She still came back smiling. She did so well with them. They were five or six-hour operations.”

The tot was affectionately known as Hollie Dollie, with Leanne explaining she was so small that she reminded her of a porcelain doll.

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Hollie was prescribed milk to help build her up and had special bottles to help her feed.

But the cleft issues did not affect her eating and her favourite foods were chocolate buttons, vegetables and Quavers.

She loved watching In The Night Garden and Mr Tumble, attending play group, shapes, learning, music, nursery rhymes and dancing.

By 10 months old she said her first word and Leanne was delighted that it was “mamma”.

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She said: “She could say a few words. They were very clear. I was shocked when she used to say mamma. She could say grandma, baby, just small words.”

Hollie started to crawl at 12 months and could stand up and walk as she leaned on furniture for support, but was not yet able to walk unaided.

She enjoyed five family holidays, to destinations including Lanzarote, Turkey and Spain.

Leanne said: “She loved the pool and swimming and the entertainment, like the kids’ characters. She found it amazing.”

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Her family made sure she was the centre of attention as she celebrated her first birthday on Christmas Eve 2018.

Leanne said: “I got a big cake, lots of big balloons and we had all the family round. I got her a little trike to push along and she wouldn’t get out of it.

“We really spoiled her. She was special anyway. She was my absolute world and I gave her everything. I loved it, I loved being a mum.”

Hollie is still showered with love at a memorial garden at Howe Bridge Crematorium, which is filled with things she liked, including little statues from In The Night Garden and toys. Leanne said: “When she was cremated, we had a ceremony for her ashes to be buried and I had her favourite toys in with her so she will never be without them. I got her a packet of milky buttons - she always has one on her garden.”

And she will never be forgotten by her proud mother.

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“I remember her cheeky smile, her laugh, her personality. If you gave her something and she didn’t like it, her expression made me laugh. We were very close as well, she loved giving me cuddles,” she said.

Leanne attended every day of the two-and-a-half week trial, listening to evidence from her former partner, medical experts and other witnesses about her daughter’s death.

Every day she was joined by her new fiance Ben Ashurst - no relation to Hollie’s father - and other loved ones.

She said: “It was daunting. I was finding out everything, things I didn’t know about. It was my choice to go into court and listen to it, which I wanted to. I wanted to get an answer on what he had actually done, but there is still not really an answer - there’s only him who knows.”

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Leanne said she was “very shocked” by the answer when the foreman of the jury was asked for the verdict on the murder charge.

“My heart sank when they asked the first question and they said not guilty,” she said.

She said: “I hope and pray that the judge gives him the highest possible sentence and he has to suffer just as much as I have.”

Leanne said: “I don’t want him to walk on the streets again. I have got to live with this for the rest of my life, knowing he’s got a chance to be able to walk away. I might have to relocate, I don’t know.”

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Once Ashurst has been sentenced, Leanne will go on holiday with Ben, as she wants to be away from home for the first anniversary of Hollie’s death on Sunday.

“I’m not looking forward to March 1,” she said. “I can’t really say how I’m going to be. God bless her, I miss her so much,” she said.

She hopes she will then be able to look to the future, while never forgetting her beloved daughter.

She said: “I am hoping to get my life back together and maybe work a few more hours.

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“I will never forget. There is never a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.

“Every day gets tougher and tougher, but I think after the sentencing, I might relax a little bit, have a nice break away and try to move forward.”

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