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Tragic Ellie Butler hid under table every time doorbell rang, inquest told

The six-year-old was battered to death by her father in 2013, just months after she was returned to her parents’ care.

Murdered Ellie Butler was so scared of being returned to her abusive parents that she hid under a table every time the doorbell rang, an inquest has heard.

Ben Butler beat his six-year-old daughter to death at their family home in Sutton, south London, 11 months after she was returned to him and her mother.

She had become upset and anxious after being told that she would go back to live with her birth parents, South London Coroner’s Court in Croydon was told.

Ellie’s guardian at the time, Carol Vicarage, received an email from a colleague about Ellie’s behaviour, saying: “Every time the doorbell rings she hides under a table.”

Ms Vicarage told the inquest on Friday that she was on extended sick leave at the time and that her cases were meant to have been reallocated.

“I was off sick, signed off sick by a doctor – I was not supposed to be working,” she added.

“My cases were not allocated and continued not to be allocated, I tried talking to my manager and asked why things weren’t being dealt with and it was being ignored.

“I just did the best I could.”

Richard Morris, assistant director at Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), said it was unacceptable that Ms Vicarage’s cases were not reassigned and that the company’s safeguarding measures have since been improved.

Ellie was returned to the care of her birth parents in November 2012 after a ruling by Mrs Justice Hogg in the family division of the High Court.

She had been placed in the care of her grandparents as a baby after Butler was accused of shaking her.

Butler is currently serving life with a minimum term of 23 years for Ellie’s murder and has been listening to the hearing via video link from prison.

Ellie’s mother, Jennie Gray, was convicted of child cruelty and perverting the course of justice and sentenced to 42 months’ imprisonment.

Butler threatened to walk out of the hearing on Friday morning in a heated exchange with the coroner, saying: “This is corrupt, I probably won’t bother coming back this afternoon.”

Retired high court judge Dame Linda Dobbs, sitting as coroner in the inquest, warned him that she would mute his microphone if he continued interrupting.

She added: “Mr Butler, you have had the most incredible amount of leeway and I have been as patient as I can.

“If you are discontent with that, so be it – if you carry on much longer I will turn you off, if you want to walk out that’s up to you.”

The inquest will examine whether there were failures on the part of the authorities with regard to Ellie’s murder, including the sharing of information, co-operation and communication between organisations.

It will resume on Monday and is expected to conclude at the end of next week.

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