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  1. ITV Report

Adoptive father Matthew Scully-Hicks guilty of 18-month-old daughter Elsie's murder

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

A father has been convicted of murdering his 18-month-old daughter by violently shaking her and striking her head, just two weeks after he formally adopted her.

Matthew Scully-Hicks was found guilty of inflicting a catalogue of injuries - including bruises, a broken leg and a fall down a full flight of stairs - on his adoptive daughter Elsie in the eight months he had care for her.

Elsie died in May 2016, four days after suffering brain damage, a fractured skull and fractures to her ribs.

During his trial, Scully-Hicks, who stayed at home with Elsie while his husband worked denied that he found looking after her stressful or that he was unable to cope and insisted he never harmed her.

Yet Cardiff Crown Court was told that the 31-year-old branded his daughter "a psycho", "the exorcist" and "Satan dressed up in a Babygro" in text messages.

Giving evidence, neighbours of the family reported hearing the former lifeguard shouting "shut the f*** up" at Elsie and calling her a "little f****** brat" and a "silly little c***" when she cried.

When he dialed 999 on May 25, Scully-Hicks reported the toddler had collapsed and must have spontaneously suffered injuries after he changed her for bed at home in Llandaff, Cardiff.

  • In the 999 call Matthew Scully-Hicks made four days before Elsie's death he tells the call handler the toddler went "floppy and limp" when he was changing her for bed.

Yet when paramedics and police arrived at the property, they found Elsie not breathing, with no pulse, in the lounge.

Doctors discovered she had suffered from three separate areas of bleeding on her brain, retinal bleeding, a skull fracture, three rib fractures and a leg fracture.

The cardiac arrest caused further brain injury and Elsie died in the early hours of May 29.

A jury at Cardiff Crown Court unanimously found Scully-Hicks guilty of Elsie's murder. Credit: PA

Following the trial which lasted more than four weeks, jurors unanimously found Scully-Hicks guilty of murder after four days deliberating the case.

During the trial, 12 medical experts and six doctors who treated Elsie gave evidence and they discounted the defendant's version of events.

All the injuries suffered by the toddler allegedly took place when she was alone with Scully-Hicks.

Iwan Jenkins, head of the Complex Casework Unit for CPS Wales, said that while the CPS was pleased with the verdict, "ultimately there are no winners, there's no victory as such, it is a sad occasion...

"When the victim is so young and defenceless as this individual child was and that the perpetrator was someone who should have been looking after her, caring for her, making sure she avoided any injury, it deepens that sadness and the tragedy of what's happened in this case."

In a statement following the verdict, the NSPCC said it was a "sad reality that cases if abuse and neglect take place every day" and that in the case of Elsie, she "should have been loved and protected by Matthew Scully-Hicks, but instead she suffered prolonged abuse and a horrific death.

"The appalling level of violence inflicted on a defenceless child is inexplicable and shocking and Scully-Hicks will now, rightly, face the consequences of this grave crime.

"But it is a sad reality that cases of abuse and neglect take place every day in homes across the country.

"It is all of our responsibility to be alert to the signs that a child may need help and be ready to take action to protect them."

An independent Child Practice Review is now under way to examine the "tragic circumstances" of Elsie's death, a spokesman for Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Safeguarding Children Board said.

Following the verdict, prosecutor Paul Lewis QC told the court: "Elsie was particularly vulnerable by reason of her age.

"There was a gross abuse of trust on the part of the defendant. We invite the court to bear in mind the nature and the extent of the injuries suffered.

"All the injuries suffered by Elsie in her short life while living with the defendant were deliberately inflicted by him."