Gay father who murdered his adopted daughter is jailed

Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, (pictured) was today jailed for 18 years

A former fitness instructor who murdered his 18-month-old adopted daughter after calling her ‘Satan in a Babygro’ was today jailed for 18 years.

Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, subjected Elsie Scully-Hicks to months of horrific assaults and was heard telling her to ‘shut the f*** up’ at his home in Llandaff, Cardiff.

The toddler suffered a string of suspicious injuries including bruises and a broken her leg and had fallen down the stairs at the house.

Following months of abuse Scully-Hicks eventually killed the youngster just two weeks after she was formally adopted by him and his 36-year-old husband Craig.

And he was today jailed for life and must serve a minimum of 18 years behind bars. 

Social services in the Vale of Glamorgan now face an investigation after they visited the family 15 times but still raised no concerns – despite finding out the severity of her injuries. 

Sentencing him, Justice Nicola Davies told the court Elsie was a ‘young, vulnerable and defenceless child’.

She said: ‘Elsie was aged just 18 months old when you killed her. A young, vulnerable and defenceless child.

‘She had been entrusted to the care of yourself and father Craig Scully-Hicks, her adoptive fathers.

‘Shorty before 6.19pm on May 25, 2016, you inflicted injuries of such severity upon Elsie as to cause her immediate collapse and her death on May 29, 2016.’

She added: ‘Elsie suffered a cardiac arrest. She sustained hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy, a brain injury including subdural haematoma, bleeding in the eyes, the retina, the perimacular folds and in the area of the optic nerve.

‘She sustained a full thickness fracture of the skull and fractures to three posterior ribs.

‘The injuries were sustained when you gripped Elsie around the chest, your fingers were on her back exerting pressure which fractured her ribs. 

Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, shook Elsie Scully-Hicks before she was  'thrown against a hard floor' while he was looking after her at his home in Llandaff, Cardiff, on May 25 2016

Elsie Scully-Hicks was  "shaken violently" and then "thrown against a hard floor'

Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, shook Elsie Scully-Hicks before she was ‘thrown against a hard floor’ while he was looking after her at his home in Llandaff, Cardiff, on May 25 2016 

‘Having gripped Elsie you shook her with such force as to cause further injuries. The fracture to the skull was caused by an impact with a hard surface.

‘Her collapse would have swiftly followed, that having occurred you called the emergency services.’  

Cardiff Crown Court heard Scully-Hicks branded her ‘a psycho’, ‘the exorcist’ and ‘Satan dressed up in a Babygro’ in text messages.

Neighbours also heard the former lifeguard calling Elsie a ‘little f****** brat’ and a ‘silly little c***’. 

Scully-Hicks, who sobbed when he was convicted, denied murdering her but was yesterday found guilty by a jury after a four week trial.  

A Child Practice Review has been commissioned ‘into the tragic circumstances’ of Elsie’s death, a spokesman for the Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Safeguarding Children Board said.

Elsie was formally adopted by the couple on May 12 last year and suffered fatal injuries at their home in Llandaff, Cardiff, on May 25.

Hours before the attack, Matthew Scully-Hicks had taken her shopping at Marks & Spencer for an outfit to wear at a party celebrating her adoption.

Scully-Hicks had presented himself as a loving and doting father but he inflicted injury after injury on Elsie before he killed he

Scully-Hicks had presented himself as a loving and doting father but he inflicted injury after injury on Elsie before he killed her

He sent pictures of outfits at Marks & Spencer to his husband and purchased one for Elsie to wear. 

But instead he shook her and then threw her to the ground, leaving his daughter fatally injured. 

In a 999 call at 6.18pm, he claimed: ‘I was just changing my daughter for bed and she went all floppy and limp.’

Paramedics arrived at 6.26pm and Elsie was taken to the University Hospital of Wales, where she died four days later.

Tests showed she had suffered three separate areas of bleeding on her brain, bleeding in both eyes, a skull fracture and three rib fractures.

Consultant paediatrician Dr Stephen Rose said Elsie’s injuries could be explained by her being ‘shaken violently’.

Dr Rose said her fractured skull would have been caused by a blow to her head, with Elsie thrown against a hard floor or her head knocked against a wall.

Elsie’s rib fractures were likely caused by Scully-Hicks gripping her, the court heard.

The court was told Elsie was placed with Scully-Hicks and his husband in September 2015, aged 10 months.

Paul Lewis QC, prosecuting, said Elsie was found unresponsive by paramedics after Scully-Hicks attacked her at his home.

He said: ‘The injuries that caused her death were inflicted upon her by the defendant shortly before he called emergency services that day. 

‘His attack upon her that day was not the first time he had employed violence towards Elsie, nor was it the first time he had caused her serious injury.

‘His actions on the late afternoon of May 25 were the tragic culmination of a course of violent conduct on his part towards a defenceless child – an infant that he should have loved and protected, but whom he instead assaulted, abused, and ultimately murdered.’

The court heard Scully-Hicks also sent messages to husband Craig calling Elsie ‘a psycho’ and ‘Satan dressed up in a Babygro.’ 

Social workers visited the couple 15 times

January 9 – Initial visit by adoption manager Bethan James 

February 20 – Initial visit by Laura Neal, social worker, with the couple for assessment as potential adopters

March 9, 20 and 30 – Further visits by Laura Neal to assess the Scully-Hicks

April 13 – Further assessment visit by Laura Neal        

July 30 – Laura Neal and Mark Lloyd-Selby, Elsie’s social worker, visit the Scully-Hicks

September 17 and 28 – Elsie observed during social work visits to the Scully-Hicks’ home by Hillary Southam and Laura Neal  

September 29 – Adoption review at the house with social workers and independent reviewing officer Erol Bowers

December 2 – Visit by social worker Cheryl Longley 

January 26 – Social worker visit with Cheryl Longley

February 26 – Social worker visit with Cheryl Longley 

March 14 – Social worker visit with Cheryl Longley 

April 29 – Social worker visit by Laura Neal

Matthew Scully-Hicks previously claimed Elsie had fallen down the stairs and hurt herself in the months before her death

Matthew Scully-Hicks previously claimed Elsie had fallen down the stairs and hurt herself in the months before her death

Neighbour Susan Bevan, who lived in the joining semi-detached house to the couple, said things changed when Elsie moved in. 

A post mortem examination found Elsie suffered bleeding behind both eyes as well as rib fractures and a skull fracture which the pathologist said was ‘as the result of an impact to the head.’ 

Craig Scully-Hicks worked five days per week, with Matthew Scully-Hicks the primary carer for Elsie.

Scully-Hicks insisted he never harmed Elsie but the jury rejected his account after hearing from 12 medical experts and six doctors who treated her. 

A Child Practice Review was launched by the Cardiff and Vale Regional Child Safeguarding Board and the probe could take up to a year to complete.

They will discuss whether chances were missed with Elsie and whether any lessons can be learned to prevent similar cases in the future.

A spokesman for the board said: ‘Now that the criminal proceedings have concluded, the Regional Safeguarding Children Board will seek assurance that the independent child practice review, which has already been commissioned, into the tragic circumstances of the child’s death, will be progressed.

‘It would therefore not be appropriate for the Board to comment further until the conclusion of the independent review.’

Scully-Hicks was accused of hurting Elsie before but he had insisted that the baby gate (pictured) had just opened and that she had tumbled down the stairs

Scully-Hicks was accused of hurting Elsie before but he had insisted that the baby gate (pictured) had just opened and that she had tumbled down the stairs

Timeline: How baby Elsie suffered a string of injuries at the hands of her killer father before her murder 

November 17, 2014 – Elsie is born, taken from her drug addict mother and put in the care of Vale of Glamorgan Council

September 10, 2015 – Elsie comes to live with the Scully-Hicks

November 5, 2015 – Elsie fractures her right leg while alone with Scully-Hicks. He tells Craig she fell from a toy table

November 9, 2015 – Elsie is seen by her GP for the injured leg. Scully-Hicks twists his story, telling the doctor that Elsie injured herself falling while using a baby walker

November 12, 2015 – Elsie’s leg is x-rayed but doctors miss a second fractured thigh bone that could only have been caused by ‘significant trauma’ 

December 16, 2015 – Elsie suffers a bruise to her left forehead that lasts for eight weeks. Scully-Hicks tells his husband Elsie ‘whacked’ her head on a toy table

December 17, 2015 – Adoption officials visit the Scully-Hicks

December 21, 2015 – Scully-Hicks lies to health visitor Jodie Golten that a GP has examined the bruise  

Jaunary 18, 2016 – A month after the first bruise to her forehead, Scully-Hicks sends his husband Craig a video of Elsie over WhatsApp

It clearly shows a fresh bruise overlaying the one she received a month ago. Again, there is no record of Elsie being seen by a GP at this time. Craig did not appear to raise any concerns

March 10, 2016 – Elsie is taken to hospital. Scully-Hicks claims she fell ‘head over heels’ down the stairs after opening a baby gate while he was sorting washing 

April 16, 2016 – The Scully-Hicks move to a new house in Cardiff

April 2016 – Elsie develops a squint in her left eye and is referred to an eye clinic. Craig takes her to see GP Dr Ruth Stone  

May 12, 2016 – Elsie is formally adopted by the Scully-Hicks

May 25, 2016 – Scully-Hicks calls 999 at 6.20pm and Elsie is rushed to hospital after becoming unresponsive

Her injuries are similar to those caused by a car crash, the court heard. Medical staff find she has fractures to her leg, skull and to three ribs

She also has bleeding to three parts of her brain as well as haemorrhages to both eyes

May 27, 2016 – An MRI scan reveals bleeding on both sides of the brain, caused by being gripped around the ribs and shaken from back to front

May 29, 2016 – Elsie dies at the University Hospital of Wales after suffering extensive brain damage

Speaking outside court, Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Wales, of South Wales Police, said the circumstances of Elsie’s murder were ‘extremely rare’.

He said: ‘Our thoughts today are with little Elsie and those who knew and loved her.

‘Her untimely death at just 18 months old has had a devastating effect, first and foremost on her family, who remain uppermost in our thoughts.

‘Elsie’s death has also impacted a wider community, including the many professionals involved in her care and the subsequent investigation.

‘I would like to thank all of them, including the many witnesses who assisted the prosecution.

‘This case represents an extremely rare and distressing set of circumstances.

‘We at South Wales Police continue to respect and value the role that adoption, and those involved, play in our society.’

Lisa McCarthy, a senior crown prosecutor within CPS Cymru-Wales, described the case as ‘tragic’.

‘The evidence put forward by the CPS proved that Matthew Scully-Hicks was not only responsible for those injuries, but that he intended to seriously harm her,’ she said.

‘The prosecution built a case through careful and detailed analysis of witness accounts, medical evidence and the circumstances surrounding Elsie’s death.’

A spokesperson for the Vale of Glamorgan Council said: ‘The Regional Safeguarding Children Board, as the relevant statutory body, has commissioned an independent Child Practice Review into the tragic death of Elsie Scully-Hicks and it would be inappropriate for the Vale of Glamorgan Council to comment further until this independent review has concluded.’