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Ellie Butler murder accused father's 'bark worse than his bite'

Published 23/05/2016

Jennie Gray is accused of child cruelty
Jennie Gray is accused of child cruelty

The man accused of killing six-year-old Ellie Butler in a violent rage was all bark and no bite, his partner has told jurors.

Graphic designer Jennie Gray, 36, insisted she and Ben Butler were not living in a "house of horrors" at the time of their daughter's death in October 2013.

She dismissed a stream of abusive text messages from Butler as "empty threats" and insisted he had never been violent towards her or Ellie.

She was at work in the City of London when Butler allegedly attacked "Daddy's girl" Ellie, causing catastrophic head injuries.

Jobless Butler, 36, urgently called her home to Sutton, south-west London, on the afternoon of October 28 2013 but waited two hours before ringing 999, the Old Bailey heard.

In that time, the couple allegedly destroyed evidence in an attempt to cover up the circumstances of Ellie's death, the court was told.

Giving evidence, Gray told jurors the way Butler spoke to her by text was "not right" but insisted: "His bark was worse than his bite."

Defence lawyer Bernard Tetlow QC said it appeared from the text messages that Butler was volatile.

Gray replied: "He used to threaten me but they were empty threats.

"I used to sit in my room and think 'Of course you will, treacle'."

Asked if Butler had ever been violent, she said: "Never. There's no way I would ever have allowed that."

On the text messages, Gray said she was being "melodramatic and bitchy", adding that she was "ashamed" of how she used to act.

She went on: "I'm not afraid of Ben Butler. He does not scare me. I never felt like that. We were both very, very bad to each other. But I didn't feel threatened."

Gray put their problems down to their experiences in 2007 when Butler was accused of shaking Ellie as a baby.

And in January 2013 she turned to drink and "hit rock-bottom again" when she had an abortion that went wrong, the court heard.

Asked about a text in which Gray tells Butler he has done all the "worst things a man can do to a woman", Gray said she was "exaggerating" and "just hurting".

She added: "I have never been beaten by Ben Butler. Yes, we had altercations when I got in his face ... The only thing I have been is berated, but not beaten."

Jurors have been told that Butler was convicted of shaking Ellie in 2007 but cleared on appeal.

The couple won custody of their daughter in November 2012, 11 months before she died.

Gray has admitted perverting the course of justice in the wake of Ellie's death but denies child cruelty over an untreated broken shoulder.

Butler denies murdering Ellie and child cruelty.

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From Belfast Telegraph