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Father accused of Ellie Butler murder admits ambulance call 'mistake'

Published 17/05/2016

Jennie Gray and Ben Butler in the dock at the Old Bailey in London
Jennie Gray and Ben Butler in the dock at the Old Bailey in London

A father tearfully admitted his "biggest mistake" was trying to cover up the circumstances surrounding the death of his six-year-old daughter Ellie Butler.

Ben Butler, 36, told jurors he was so shocked at finding Ellie unconscious in her bedroom that rather than calling 999, he just shut the door and lay down on the floor.

The former car salesman is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of battering the girl to death in a fit of rage while his partner Jennie Gray was at work in the City of London on October 28 2013.

He had already been jailed for 19 months for "shaking" Ellie in 2007 when she was a baby, but his conviction was quashed on appeal.

In November 2012, Butler and Gray, 36, won a legal fight to get Ellie back from care, but within 11 months she was dead.

Giving evidence for a second day, Butler admitted that he had been violent towards Gray but said : "The way you are portraying Jennie, she's like that bear from Rainbow - George. Submissive. She's more like Zippy with the wig, and she's confrontational."

During 2013, Ellie had two accidents and bumped her head in June and early October, he said.

Although Ellie passed out and threw up on the second occasion, Butler said she appeared to recover and decided against getting medical help.

On the day of her death, Butler said he had a "lazy day" with Ellie and another child at home ahead of preparing for Halloween.

He gave them jam sandwiches, crisps and sweets in the morning then had a nap on the sofa while they played upstairs.

He then did some housework and called up to the children to have some cake in the kitchen, but there was no reply.

When he went to investigate, he found Ellie collapsed on the floor of her bedroom with her eyes open.

Butler said: "It took all the breath away from my body. I did not expect to see that.

"I tried to shake her. She didn't respond to what I did. I tried to breathe in her mouth. It just took the wind out of my sails. I still don't know why I didn't do more."

Butler walked out and shut the door behind him, he said, adding: "I was in shock. The only way to describe it is if you have a car accident, everything goes slow. I felt like all the wind had come out of my sails. I went downstairs and lay on the floor."

He told jurors he called graphic designer Gray at work and told her she had to come but not the reason why.

It was only after she got back Butler told her: "I'm not sure but I think Ellie might be dead."

She became "hysterical" as she saw her daughter lying on the floor, the court heard.

Butler went on: "This was our worst nightmare after everything that happened before.

"Originally I was just concerned how we are going to look because I hadn't called the ambulance and I hadn't been watching them.

"Then I thought, 'here we go again'."

The defendant said the "biggest mistake" was trying to cover it up, making it look more suspicious.

He told jurors he did not understand why police had to arrest him straight away, saying: "They thought they had won the lottery."

On the allegation he had hit Ellie with an object or struck her against a wall, Butler said: "This is bullshit. I never did it. I'm not guilty of murder. I'm not guilty of manslaughter."

Cross-examining, Ed Brown QC, said jurors had seen Butler's "violent" temper with their own eyes.

The prosecutor said: "I'm suggesting you were a violent man within that household and we can see it as plain as plain can be."

He went on: "You will seek to blame anyone so long as it diverts attention away from you Mr Butler. That's the reality isn't it?"

Butler said: "I don't agree."

Mr Brown went on: "You would lie as easily as you swear perhaps as long as it would save your own skin, Mr Butler, isn't that the truth?"

Butler replied: "Everyone lies sometimes."

He told jurors that he had sacked his first team of lawyers last year "rather than going to trial like a dick head".

He complained he had difficulty getting his own medical experts to go up against "what we call the mafia".

But in the end, he told jurors: "It's the rope for me 100%. I'm dead."

Becoming angry, Butler told the prosecutor: "You f****** destroyed our f****** lives - not you personally. You f***** us for five/six years. By the way, let's trust you. You tried to f*** me 100%."

Butler, of Sutton, south-west London, denies murder and child cruelty. Gray, 36, denies child cruelty but has admitted perverting the course of justice after Ellie's death.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

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