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Ellie Butler's grandfather calls for public inquiry into death

Published 22/06/2016

Six-year-old Ellie Butler died of catastrophic head injuries inflicted by her father, Ben Butler
Six-year-old Ellie Butler died of catastrophic head injuries inflicted by her father, Ben Butler

Ellie Butler's death should be subject to a public inquiry, according to the murdered child's grandfather.

Neal Gray said he wants everything "o pen and above board" as he recalled the suffering of the six-year-old, who was killed by her father Ben Butler in a fit of rage.

Jobless Butler, 36, who i nflicted horrific head injuries on Ellie while left home alone to look after her and her younger sibling in October 2013, has been jailed for a minimum of 23 years for murder.

He was also sentenced to five years to run concurrently for breaking Ellie's shoulder and failing to get her medical attention weeks before her death.

His partner, Jennie Gray, 36, was jailed for 42 months after being found guilty of child cruelty having admitted perverting the course of justice.

Mr Gray and his wife Linda, who died on the first day of the murder trial, were Ellie's maternal grandparents and cared for the child after her father was accused of shaking her as a baby.

They were forced to hand her back 11 months before her death.

Mr Gray said he last saw Ellie during a 30-minute visit at a McDonald's in Sutton, south London, the day before she died.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "She wasn't the Ellie we knew. She had bruises on her forehead and her face and scratches, her hair was all bedraggled, she had odd shoes, odd socks, clothes and she looked as though she'd been dragged through the back of a hedgerow."

Asked if Ellie resisted returning with her parents at the end of the meeting, Mr Gray said: " No. But you could see her eyes were sunk in and there was sadness in her eyes."

He added: "Now the court case is over I hope to pursue a judicial review or an article 2 inquiry."

Mr Gray went on: "In layman's terms, a public inquiry surrounding this case to find out why the judiciary didn't do their job correctly, why the social services failed Ellie - especially the private side.

"I want it all open and above board, and I want everybody to answer because everybody failed Ellie completely and utterly."

Ellie and her younger sibling had been handed back to Butler and Gray following a bitter custody battle in which Mrs Justice Hogg sided with the parents despite objections from Mr Gray who warned she would have "blood on your hands".

A serious case review published in the wake of Butler's conviction blamed the judge for handing "all the power" to Butler when she decided he had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice over the 2007 baby shaking case.

She took the "unprecedented" step of ordering Sutton Council to send letters to up to 40 education, child protection, police and health bodies, stressing that Butler was innocent.

Agencies were effectively "paralysed" from taking action to protect Ellie as the judge also allowed Butler and his legal team to send follow-up letters to remind them he had been "exonerated".

Report author Marion Davis said on Tuesday that she plans to write to the President of the Family Division of the High Court and the Family Justice Council to ask for answers over the case as a "concern of national interest".

Mrs Justice Hogg, who retired before Butler's trial, has refused to comment on or contribute to the review in line with a judges' convention.

However, Anne Longfield, children's commissioner for England, has called for a reform of how the judiciary provide information to reviews in light of "unanswered questions".

She said: "I'm concerned that all the circumstances in this family - which included violence, aggression and habitual evasion of any engagement with local services - may not have been fully considered when custody was awarded, despite custody being objected to by local children's services, the police and Ellie's grandparents.

"There remains a number of unanswered questions regarding this judgment. The role of the judiciary and their involvement in providing information to serious case reviews needs to be looked at as part of ongoing reform."

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