Man 'killed daughter after conviction for assaulting her as a baby was quashed'


A hot-tempered father killed his six-year-old daughter after successfully appealing his conviction for assaulting her as a baby, a court has heard.

Ben Butler, 36, had been found guilty of causing serious head injuries to little Ellie Butler in 2007 and she was put into foster care.

But when his conviction was quashed in 2010, Butler and his partner Jennie Gray launched a bid for her to be returned in the High Court.

In November 2012, Ellie was duly sent back to the "toxic" family home in Westover Close, Sutton, south-west London, jurors were told.

Less than a year later, she was found dead in her bedroom.

Butler allegedly caused "catastrophic head injuries" while Gray was at work in the City of London on October 28 2013.

He then acted out an "elaborate" charade with the child's mother in a bid to get away with murder, the court heard.

Graphic designer Gray had left her offices just yards from the Old Bailey and rushed home immediately after Butler had called her on the day of Ellie's death.

But rather than calling emergency services, Gray, 36, helped hide the truth of what her domineering partner had done in a "carefully co-ordinated and elaborate" cover-up, jurors heard.

The couple allegedly only called 999 an hour after Gray arrived home - two hours after Ellie was fatally hurt.

Butler is on trial for murdering his daughter while both parents are accused of child cruelty.

In the weeks leading up to the killing, Ellie had suffered a broken shoulder, which would have been painful, but neither sought medical treatment for her, jurors were told.

Opening the trial, prosecutor Edward Brown QC said Ellie died after suffering "very significant fractures to her skull" as the result of "really significant force".

There were also underlying brain and eye injuries as well as bruises consistent with fingers gripping under the child's jaw.

Mr Brown told jurors of "truly disturbing" evidence about what happened in the Butler household in the weeks and months leading up to the killing.

He said: "Ben Butler was an angry and violent man with a short fuse. The make-up of the man dominated his and his family's domestic life. The evidence will demonstrate him to be consistently teetering on the edge of a violent loss of temper.

"It was, say the Crown, Ben Butler's sudden loss of temper on the 28th of October that caused him to inflict such devastating injuries on his daughter."

The defendants "screamed for help" when they called 999 at 2.46pm.

Gray performed CPR and Butler said his daughter had "fallen", the court heard. Mr Brown said that on the face of it, it was a "heart-rending call".

Paramedics arrived to find Ellie in her bedroom, lying on her back on the floor next to an overturned stool by her wardrobe where the parents said they found her.

Mr Brown said the "clear and intended implication" of what they each said was that Ellie had been the victim of a "tragic accident", discovered moments before they rang 999.

But the prosecutor said: "The terrible truth is that the scene was staged by the defendants.

"What they said in those apparently frantic moments and which they continued to claim was also staged.

"This was a planned, carefully co-ordinated and elaborate cover-up, designed wholly to mislead and divert attention in particular away from Ben Butler."

In the two hours after the killing, Butler put on an act of normality taking his dog for a "nonchalant" walk and commenting on the weather to a neighbour as Ellie lay dead.

Meanwhile, he tried to get rid of evidence that would show him as "violent, abusive and with a short fuse", the court heard.

Clothes were put in the wash and Butler dumped Gray's torn-up diary in a communal bin, the court heard.

Mr Brown said: "The dreadful reality is that both defendants put themselves before the well-being or dignity of that little girl with Jennie Gray seeking to protect the man, who you will hear had significant control over her, emotionally and often physically.

"In respect of Butler, this is a story of a cynical and considered deception directed by a man acting to save himself.

"They are not the actions of an innocent man wracked by grief at the unexpected and inexplicable death of his young daughter."

Gray's actions flowed from the "abusive and violent" relationship with Butler and her "irrational devotion" to him, always putting him first, jurors were told.

When he was arrested, Butler made no comment while Gray stuck to her "lying" account that they had found Ellie on the bedroom floor, having been alerted by another child in the house at the time, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

House-husband Butler was often very angry and was particularly resentful of his responsibility to look after Ellie, expressing hatred for her, the court heard.

The police investigation unravelled the complex relationships through text messages showing Butler's anger and inability to cope, and letters in which Gray begged him to stop his behaviour, the court heard.

She also searched the internet to find help and comfort from "magic spells", jurors were told.