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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Adopted baby girl murder case as serious as any dealt with, says judge

Written by Claire Hayhurst and Brian Farmer

A senior family court judge says the case of a baby girl murdered two weeks after being formally adopted is as serious as any he has dealt with.

Mr Justice Moor says the death of 18-month-old Elsie Scully-Hicks gives rise to issues of significant public interest.

Elsie was murdered by her adoptive father at their home in Llandaff, Cardiff.

Earlier this month, Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, was jailed for a minimum of 18 years after being convicted of murder following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court.

Council social services bosses with responsibility for the welfare of Elsie's sibling had asked Mr Justice Moor to consider issues in the case at a private family court hearing in Cardiff following the little girl's death in May 2016.

Mr Justice Moor's ruling had been kept under wraps while criminal proceedings were on-going.

The judge said on Monday that his ruling could now be published.

Prosecutors told jurors at the trial in Cardiff Crown Court that Scully-Hicks had violently shaken Elsie.

Jurors heard how he had described the toddler as ''a psycho'', ''the exorcist'' and ''Satan dressed up in a baby grow'' in text messages to friends and family members.

They were told that he struggled to cope with being the primary carer for Elsie as his husband, Craig Scully-Hicks, 36, worked full-time.

Scully-Hicks denied murder, but a jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict following a four-week trial.

Mr Justice Moor had been asked to make finds of fact to help social services staff make decisions about the care of Elsie's sibling.

The judge had analysed issues at a family court hearing in December 2016.

He said his conclusions had to be kept under wraps to prevent the criminal trial being delayed.

"The facts of this case raise serious issues that will be of genuine public concern," he said in his ruling.

"This case is as serious a case as I have dealt with.

"Elsie had to be taken away from her birth mother as she was suffering significant harm at the hands of her birth mother, due primarily to her birth mother's drug addiction.

"She was placed with Matthew Scully-Hicks and 13 days after an adoption order was made, Elsie died at his hands."

Mr Justice Moor, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, added: "I make it absolutely clear that the fact that this was a gay adoption is quite irrelevant."

He said he had come across a significant number of non-accidental injury cases "involving all sorts of different people".

"I am absolutely satisfied that sexuality has absolutely no role whatsoever in determining which of a very small minority act in a way that very serious injury and/or death is done to children," he said.

"I am equally satisfied that Matthew Scully-Hicks presented to the world as eminently suitable to adopt."

Mr Justice Moor said he had come to "some very clear conclusions" about the events of May 25 2016 which led to Elsie's death.

"Elsie had been entirely normal all day," the judge said.

"She had eaten a meal of sausage and vegetables for her tea which she finished at 5.45pm.

"Sometime around 6pm, she suffered extremely serious injuries that resulted in her death.

"I find that she had almost certainly been playing up.

"I find that she had been crying and was very difficult to settle.

"Matthew lost his temper with her as he had done before when nobody else was present.

"He picked her up and shook her very hard.

"Her head will have gone backwards and forwards at great pace."

Mr Justice Moor added: "He gripped her so hard that he fractured several of her posterior ribs.

"He shook her so hard that she broke her left femur.

"He then threw her to the floor such that her head impacted with something hard causing bruising to her forehead and a fractured skull.

"There was nothing that could be done to save her.

"These injuries resulted in her death."

The judge went on: "I do not have any doubt about this. I am satisfied it was what occurred. There is no other explanation for her injuries."

Mr Justice Moor said social services bosses at The County Council of the City and County of Cardiff had asked him to make findings of fact.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.