Injuries to the eyes of a toddler allegedly murdered by her adoptive father were similar to those that would be caused in a ‘severe’ car crash, a court heard today.
Elsie Scully-Hicks died in hospital aged 18 months after suffering from three separate areas of subdural bleeding, retinal bleeding in both eyes, a skull fracture and fractures to three ribs and her leg.
Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, who is accused of inflicting those injuries on her, had formally adopted her with his husband Craig Scully-Hicks, 36, just two weeks before she was rushed to hospital on May 25, 2016.
Cardiff Crown Court heard Scully-Hicks, who denies murder, dialled 999 at around 6.20pm saying Elsie had gone all ‘floppy and limp’ and that she was not breathing.
Today, the Crown Prosecution Service released audio recordings and a transcript from the 999 call and from a previous call to the emergency services after Elsie allegedly fell down the stairs in March 2016.
On the tapes, which were heard by the jury last week, Scully-Hicks can be heard following the instructions of the operator to administer CPR to his daughter and saying ‘oh my God’.
Elsie was rushed from the couple’s home in Llandaff, Cardiff, to University Hospital of Wales but died there in the early hours of May 29.
Today in court Dr Richard Bonshek, a consultant ophthalmic pathologist who examined Elsie’s eyes after she had died, said he found bleeding in the retinas of both eyes, the coverings of the optic nerves, the optic nerve sheaths and in the tissue around the optic nerve in both eyes.
Elsie Scully-Hicks died from catastrophic injuries. Her adoptive father Matthew Scully-Hicks is accused of her murder
‘Given the range of findings and their extent, the most likely cause is some form of severe trauma and in the absence of accidental trauma of considerable severity … then one is left with the likelihood of non-accidental injury,’ he said.
Excerpt from 999 call
Matthew Scully-Hicks: ‘We’re adopting her.’
Operator: ‘OK, well I need to know all the names she’s going by now.’
Scully-Hicks: ‘She’s known as Elsie to us.’
Operator: ‘OK, and what’s Elsie’s surname?’
Operator: ‘Scully-Hicks, OK.’
Scully-Hicks: ‘Elsie, Elsie, Elsie, Elsie?’
Operator: ‘Is she responding to you at all there?’
Scully-Hicks: ‘Her eyes are opening and they’re rolling round. I think she’s looking at me now, but she’s not moving.’
Operator: ‘That’s fine – obviously we’re just going to… as long as she’s conscious, that’s the main thing, OK? So just leave her there, and as I said, don’t move her – just stay with her now, just keep her comforted, OK?’
Scully-Hicks: ‘OK. Elsie, Elsie, Elsie, Elsie, Elsie, Elsie? Come on, come on love.’
Operator: ‘OK, can you just make sure the door’s unlocked for me, OK?’
Operator: ‘And, just, if there’s any pets there, can you just put them away for me?’
Scully-Hicks: ‘Yeah, we’ve got cats, but they’re upstairs.’
Operator: ‘They’re upstairs out the way, that’s OK. Is Elsie on any medication at all?’
Scully-Hicks: ‘No. Elsie?’
Operator: ‘OK, and can you see any obvious injuries there?’
Scully-Hicks: ‘I can’t see anything. She’s responding when I touch her, like, her eyes are opening more, just not moving.’
Operator: ‘OK, she’s probably shocked as well, OK, so obviously if you just make her as comfortable as you can without moving her, OK?’
Operator: ‘And just keep talking to her there.’
Scully-Hicks: ‘Elsie, Elsie?’
Paul Lewis QC, prosecuting, asked what level of trauma would cause the injuries.
Dr Bonshek said: ‘Comparing these changes (in Elsie’s eyes) with changes I have seen in other cases … I think that for accidental causes then one is talking of severe motor vehicle accidents, falls from heights (or) in cases when a child has been accidentally propelled down stairs or a child has been thrown down stairs.’
Dr Bonshek added the injuries were so severe that had Elsie survived she would ‘most probably’ have had problems with her sight.
‘In terms of non-accidental injuries, these findings have been described in cases which have been ascribed to shaking as well of cases of shaking and impact and impact alone,’ he added.
Neighbours have claimed they heard Scully-Hicks, a part-time fitness instructor, from Delabole, Cornwall, shouting and swearing at Elsie when she cried.
But they added they had no concerns over her welfare.
Craig Scully-Hicks described the home as ‘filled with love and happiness’.
The defendant is also accused of describing Elsie, who was removed from her natural mother within days of her birth in November 2014 and went to live with the couple in September 2015, as ‘a psycho’ and ‘Satan dressed up in a Babygro’ in messages.
She fractured her right leg in two places in November that year and suffered bruises to her head in December and January 2016.
On March 10, she was taken to the University Hospital of Wales after falling down the stairs.
The court previously heard Elsie’s injuries in May were consistent with her being ‘shaken violently’ and having her head ‘rocked backwards and forwards so that her head was flexed down on to her chest and flexed backwards’.
Dr Stephen Rose, a consultant paediatrician, also said of Elsie’s skull fracture: ‘The only mechanism for a skull fracture is if there was a blow to the head, either during the shaking injury which culminated in Elsie being thrown against a hard floor, or possibly her head being knocked against a wall.’
Scully-Hicks denies one charge of murder. The trial, expected to last five weeks, continues.
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