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Dad killed his daughter and staged cover-up with her mum, court told

By Emily Pennink

Published 20/04/2016

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.

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 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 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 October 28 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". 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."

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