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Father accused of Ellie Butler's murder compares his case to Hillsborough

Published 18/05/2016

Court artist sketch of Jennie Gray and Ben Butler in the dock at the Old Bailey in London, where Butler is on trial for murdering their six year old daughter Ellie while both parents are accused of child cruelty.
Court artist sketch of Jennie Gray and Ben Butler in the dock at the Old Bailey in London, where Butler is on trial for murdering their six year old daughter Ellie while both parents are accused of child cruelty.

The father accused of murdering six-year-old Ellie Butler has likened his case to the fight for justice for victims of the Hillsborough disaster.

Ben Butler, 36, is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of battering the little girl in a fit of rage 11 months after winning a battle for her custody.

He had been convicted of violently shaking Ellie when she was a baby in 2007 but that conviction was later quashed on appeal.

Under cross-examination, the Everton football fan ranted about a documentary on the Hillsborough tragedy he had watched.

He said: "The families there were fighting for justice like we were. Lady come on and said the problem you don't see is the ripple effect the one action has on everyone's life.

"That 2007 (conviction) had a ripple effect on everyone's life."

But prosecutor Ed Brown said Butler was "determined to deflect the case from the evidence".

The QC accused him of putting on a "truly impressive performance" as he allegedly tried to cover up the killing.

He even allegedly involved another child in the household who is heard on a 999 call to say: "I tried to wake her up but she did not wake up."

Butler, a former car salesman, had known Ellie was dead two hours before alerting the emergency services, the jury has heard.

An hour before, he told his partner Jennie Gray, 36, that "Ellie might be dead" when she arrived home after dashing back from her graphic design work in the City, the court heard.

But during the delayed 999 call, they both screamed and shouted at the operator to hurry up and Gray carried out mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the court heard.

Mr Brown cross-examined Butler on the call at 2.46pm on October 28, 2013, which was played to the jury for a second time in the trial.

He said: "I suggest the story that you and Jennie Gray had agreed upon was largely in place by now."

Butler said: "It was more of a heat of the moment thing."

The prosecutor said: "You two were blaming the 999 operator for delaying. You were there on the phone blaming a person who was trying to help you for delaying when you had sat on her death for two hours. Because you killed her."

Butler replied: "Not because I killed her. What happened in 2007 was the reason I reacted like that."

Butler denied putting words in the mouth of the other child present in the house, whose voice is heard in the recording.

When accused of a "sophisticated charade", the defendant denied it, adding: "I accept what I done wrong here. We could have hid behind this 999 call. I have chosen not to do that."

Butler has said he panicked and did not call for help immediately because he feared he would be blamed again.

But Mr Brown asserted: "I'm going to suggest what happened in those two hours was not panic but design.

"This was a truly impressive performance by you two isn't it?"

Butler, of Sutton, south-west London, denies murder and child cruelty.

Gray denies child cruelty but has admitted perverting the course of justice after Ellie's death.

Mr Brown quizzed Butler about the stream of abusive texts he sent to Gray in the months leading up to Ellie's death.

The defendant accepted they were "vile" words and that he had minor violent altercations with his partner. But he denied rowing in front of Ellie and insisted he was not on trial for abusing Gray.

Mr Brown reminded him he was caught on video shouting on the phone with Ellie standing at his side, and Butler conceded it "spilled out every now and again" in front of their daughter.

On the text messages: he said: "They are vile. I was in a relationship. I was not happy at the time.

"It's not acceptable. There's nothing I'm going to say that makes it acceptable. It's not acceptable. I'm sorry to Jennie and I let her down."

Butler said it was "insane" to suggest he had killed Ellie for "no reason".

He told jurors he was "100%" sure that she would not have died if it was not for the medical problems she had from birth.

He added: "If I had took her to hospital when I should have took her to hospital she would probably still be here."

He went on to blame Gray for not noticing Ellie was ill earlier on the day he was accused of shaking her in 2007.

Referring to one of his text messages in which he accuses Gray of being "to blame for Ellie", he said: "She was ill. I felt part of the reason I am angry was she should have known she was ill. I was guided by what Jennie said.

"It was me basically saying you are probably to blame for her collapse like that. I believe if she had ever noticed Ellie was ill that day, none of this would have happened."

Mr Brown pointed out text messages where Butler is "seething" and "raging".

He said: "You are extraordinarily volatile, Mr Butler, and you have been all your life."

But Butler dismissed as exaggerations texts in which Gray says "you nutted me like a bloke" and she was "kneed in the tits and pussy and kicked me out".

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