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Father accused of Ellie Butler murder denies casting suspicion on partner

Published 19/05/2016

Ben Butler is accused of murdering six-year-old Ellie (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Ben Butler is accused of murdering six-year-old Ellie (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The father of tragic Ellie Butler has denied casting suspicion on his partner in an attempt to cover up killing his six-year-old daughter in a violent rage.

Ben Butler, 36, allegedly murdered the little girl by causing catastrophic head injuries while Jennie Gray was at work in the City of London on October 28 2013.

Afterwards, he urgently called Gray home to Sutton, south west London, but the couple did not alert emergency services until two hours later, the court heard.

Graphic designer Gray, 36, has already pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice in the wake of Ellie's death.

Butler said he had panicked because he thought he would be blamed, as he had years earlier when he was accused of shaking Ellie as a baby.

As he concluded his evidence, trial judge Mr Justice Wilkie raised a question which he said had been "troubling" him.

He said: "On October 28 you told us that you found your daughter lying on the floor and seemed pretty quickly to come to believe she could well be dead and in that time you were the sole adult in the house and had been for a number of hours.

"So it was pretty obvious if anyone might have suspicions about what happened to Ellie, you would be the focus of that suspicion.

"You told us that very quickly you contacted Jennie at work and you gave her to understand that she needed to come home as a matter of urgency although you did not say.

"And we know it was just more than an hour later that she arrived home and we know that from the photos of the taxi going through Sutton.

"You have told us that some time after you went out, you took the dog for a walk and you took some stuff to the bins and we know that must be right because we have heard evidence from some of your neighbours who saw you and one of them said you spoke to her and made some comment about the awful weather.

"And then, you have told us that when you got back (the other child in the house) was in the kitchen and it was pretty soon after that that (the child) went upstairs and said that Ellie was still sleeping and that prompted you then to call the ambulance, although you knew that you would have to call the ambulance at some point.

"That means, doesn't it, that Jennie was the sole adult in the house for quite a period of time leading up to the period before you rang the ambulance?"

Butler agreed but said he was not sure how long she was alone in the house.

Turning to the transcript of the 999 call, the senior judge said Butler was heard in the background to say "What happened, what happened, baby?" to Gray as she was asked for information by the operator.

Later on in the call, when asked what happened, Butler tells the woman he does not know and he only came upstairs to find she had "fallen down".

As the operator instructs Gray, Butler can again be heard to ask his partner: "What happened, tell me what happened?"

Posing his question, the judge said: "I just want your response to this: if it was suggested that the way the cover up seems to have operated indicates that it was your aim to transfer suspicion from yourself as the sole adult in the house, what would your response be to that suggestion?"

The defendant replied: "Absolutely not. I would not blame her for anything."

Earlier, the former car salesman had put Ellie's fatal injuries down to an accidental fall while she was playing on the stairs with new puppy Minnie weeks before, on October 10 2013.

He denied murdering Ellie but told jurors her death was probably his fault because he failed to take her to hospital on this occasion - a mistake for which he paid the "ultimate price".

Cross examining, Ed Brown QC said there was no evidence that Ellie was a "clumsy" child at school and suggested injuries she suffered in June, August and earlier in October 2013 were not accidental.

But the defendant Butler replied: "Children fall over. I have not hid it. I have highlighted it.

"I believe when she chased Minnie down the stairs I think all the damage is done then and then whatever happened upstairs would not have happened - I don't know what they were doing - if she just jumped and banged her head. It is because of the stairs."

The Old Bailey jury has heard Butler was convicted of shaking Ellie as a baby but was cleared on appeal.

He and Gray won a long custody battle and Ellie was returned to their home in Sutton 11 months before her death.

Butler denies murder and cruelty over Ellie's untreated broken shoulder.

Gray, 36, denies child cruelty but has admitted perverting the course of justice.

The trial was adjourned until Friday when medical experts for Butler will give evidence via video link from the United States.

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