Grandparents' statement reveals devastation at loss of murdered Ellie Butler

Grandparents' statement reveals devastation at loss of murdered Ellie Butler
Ellie Butler

Update 3.55pm: Ellie Butler's maternal grandparents described their utter devastation at her death, saying: "She was our shining light" after her father Ben was sentence to at least 23 years in jail for her murder.

Grandmother Linda Gray died on the first day of the murder trial and her husband Neal was understood to be too ill to give evidence.

The couple had cared for Ellie after her father Ben Butler was accused of shaking her as a baby, but they were forced to hand her back 11 months before her death.

In a joint statement written ahead of the trial, they described how they struggled to come to terms with the "shock and horror" of her death.

They said: "Our lives have changed so dramatically due to the impact and shock and horror of this event that we struggle every day to deal with the reality of the death of our dear granddaughter Ellie. She was our shining light.

"Ellie was a very beautiful, bubbly and intelligent little girl who always had a smile on her face and even at such a young age she was nobody's fool. She was our life and she gave so much pleasure to us and our family too, how we all miss her."

The couple went on: "Local people, some of whom we did not even know, came to express their sadness upon hearing of her death and we received over a hundred messages of sympathy. This gave us great comfort in our time of mourning. Ellie had many friends in school and the community all of whom were totally grief-stricken.

"We have difficulty facing people and people have difficulty facing us and visiting our home. It affects our everyday lives. It was such a great privilege and pleasure to have been Ellie's grandparents and to be able to have loved her in her short life. This goes for our family and friends too."

The couple did not directly refer to their daughter Jennie Gray or Butler.

However, they said: "We did not realise that some people could be so wicked in life."

They added: "Our beautiful granddaughter Ellie, we all miss her very, very, much, more than any words can express. Life will never be the same for us again."

Update 3.45pm: A family court judge handed "all the power" to murderous Ben Butler when she decided he had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice over a claim he had shaken his daughter as a baby, a serious case review has found.

Mrs Justice Hogg ordered Sutton Council to send letters to education, child protection and health bodies, stressing that Butler was innocent after she decided that his daughter Ellie should be returned to his care in November 2012.

He was sentenced to 18 months in prison in March 2009 for shaking Ellie as a baby two years previously. But in 2010 his conviction was quashed, as appeal judges could not rule out an unknown cause for her injuries.

Less than a year after Ellie was placed back in her father's care, following a catalogue of violent abuse including a broken shoulder that went untreated for a month, he murdered the six-year-old.

Speaking on Tuesday as a serious case review on the run-up to Ellie's death was published, chairwoman of the Sutton Safeguarding Children Board Christine Davies said Mrs Justice Hogg's decision over the letters, and to appoint private firm Services for Children to deal with the case, tied their hands.

Ellie Butler with her father Ben.
Ellie Butler with her father Ben.

She said: "We are all deeply saddened by the death of Ellie Butler. The death of any child is always tragic but more so in these circumstances. Ellie was harmed by her parents, the very people who were supposed to protect her and keep her safe.

"The serious case review concluded that the Family Court's decision to exonerate Ben Butler of harming Ellie in 2007, combined with its subsequent order for agencies to be sent a letter to that effect, had a very significant impact on how agencies could protect his children from that point in time onwards.

"Ben Butler's exoneration and the judge's statement about him being a victim of a miscarriage of justice had the effect of handing all the power to the parents.

"This coupled with the assessment made by Services for Children to support Ellie and her sibling to be cared for by their parents were critical factors."

Ben Butler
Ben Butler

Update 1.30pm: Ben Butler has been sentenced to life with a minimum of 23 years in prison for murdering daughter Ellie.

Earlier: In the UK - a father has been found guilty of murdering his six-year-old daughter - 11 months after winning a high-profile custody battle.

36-year-old Ben Butler killed Ellie while looking after her in October 2013.

A jury also found him and his partner Jennie Gray guilty of child cruelty.

They came up with an elaborate plot to destroy evidence - and make it look like an accident - before calling for an ambulance.

Ellie Butler's absences from school and bruises should have been "a red flag" that she was being mistreated, a leading children's charity has said.

The youngster was returned to her parents in November 2012 after High Court judge Mrs Justice Hogg ruled that her father Ben Butler had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice over a quashed conviction for shaking her as a baby.

In reality he was a violent thug and once back in his care, Ellie suffered a series of injuries including a broken shoulder that was left untreated for a month before she died at her father's hands in late October 2013.

He and her mother Jennie Gray focused on hiding evidence instead of getting help for their daughter when she had been fatally injured.

An NSPCC spokesman said: "This tragedy raises serious questions about why Ellie was returned to the man who would eventually kill her - questions which a serious case review must address.

"There were signs such as absences from school and bruising which should have acted as a red flag that Ellie was in danger.

"Despite this she was left at the mercy of Ben Butler, who has shown himself to be a violent, aggressive and manipulative man, more concerned with covering his tracks than seeking medical help for his daughter.

Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben who has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter. Picture: Metropolitan Police/PA.
Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben who has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter. Picture: Metropolitan Police/PA.

"He was aided in this sickening crime by his partner Jennie Gray, who has been revealed to be just as conniving, deceptive and duplicitous. There are obviously lessons to be learned from such a harrowing case."

Malcolm McHaffie, London deputy chief crown prosecutor, said Ellie's parents "did all they could to divert the police investigation" away from Butler.

"Six-year-old Ellie Butler was murdered in her home, where she should have felt safe, by her violent father who should have loved and protected her," he said.

"The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) presented evidence of Ben Butler's contempt for his daughter and his aggressive nature and volatile temper through text messages and diary entries.

"We may never know exactly what happened in the last few hours of Ellie's life, but the CPS built a strong case to show that her death was the result of deliberate violence by Butler.

"Butler and his partner and Ellie's mother, Jennie Gray, did all they could to try to divert the police investigation away from any suspicion of Butler. However, the Crown's expert medical evidence showed that Ellie's catastrophic head injuries could not have been the result of an accident, but must have been deliberately inflicted.

"This was a complex and challenging case which involved a thorough police investigation and was clearly and carefully presented to the court by the CPS. Their hard work and dedication has helped secure justice for Ellie."

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