A FATHER who murdered his five-year-old daughter and attempted to kill his son by driving into a Worcestershire river will serve a minimum of 15 years in prison.

Family and friends of the victims immediately branded the sentence “a joke”, saying Chris Grady should spend much longer behind bars.

The 43-year-old deliberately drove into the river Avon at Evesham on February 11 last year with the intention of killing his children Gabby and Ryan who were inside the car.

Gabby, who was trapped in the submerged vehicle for two hours, died in hospital three days later. Ryan, now seven, was rescued by police officers.

A jury at Birmingham Crown Court found Grady guilty of murder and attempted murder on Friday following a three-week trial.

He claimed driving into the river was an “accident” but wrote a number of suicide notes before telling Kim Smith she had “10 seconds to say goodbye” to her children.

Speaking outside court yesterday, Miss Smith said she was “not wholly pleased” with the minimum tariff.

On her Facebook page she later wrote: “Robbed... nothing more to add.”

In response, some of her friends described the sentence as a “joke”.

Kelly-Marie Selby said: “Life should mean life.”

On Twitter, Ruth Peterson added: “Think Grady deserved longer.”

Mr Justice Lindblom said Grady had put his “defenceless” children “in terror” and had betrayed their trust in him.

He said: “What you did on February 11, 2010, would horrify anyone who is or has been the parent of a young child.

“It would horrify any right-thinking person.

“The jury has clearly concluded you attempted to take three lives that day. Not just your own but Ryan and Gabby’s as well.

“I am in no doubt that is what you intended to do.

“You succeeded only in bringing Gabby’s life to an end.

"That is a tragedy which no sentence I can impose could repair.”

But the judge said Grady’s state of mind was “disturbed” due to massive debt, losing his flat and his strained relationship with Miss Smith.

“This had a very significant effect on the way he acted on that morning,” he said.

The judge also said Grady had attempted to rescue Gabby and Ryan after the car plunged into the water and said he was of previous good character.

Before passing the life sentence, the judge was told how Ryan suffered from nightmares following the incident.

His school teacher described him as “irritable” and “clingy”.

However, a medical report said he was “back to his normal self” by the end of last year.

A victim impact statement from Miss Smith said the incident has “shattered everyone in her family” and “every day is like a recurring nightmare”.

Outside court she said: “I can’t say I am wholly pleased with the minimum tariff Mr Grady has received today.

“I would just like to restate my gratitude to all parties concerned in seeking justice for Gabby and Ryan.

“No sentence passed down today will change the fact that Gabby has gone and Ryan, along with the rest of us, will always suffer from this terrible loss.”

After sentencing, the judge singled out Inspector Sean Kent, of West Mercia Police, and fireman Jason Mayhew, of Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service for their “extraordinary and heroic actions” by rescuing Ryan and attempting to save Gabby.

• See how we have covered this tragic tale here.