Ellie Butler was murdered by her father at their home in Sutton, London in 2013
Ellie Butler was ‘let down by an entire system’ when she was murdered 11 months after she was returned to her parents, an inquest heard today.
Ben Butler, 38, is serving life with a minimum of 23 years for beating his six-year-old daughter to death at their family home in Sutton, south London in October 2013.
The youngster went to live with her grandparents, Neal and Linda Gray, after Butler was convicted of shaking her when she was a baby.
But the conviction was quashed in the Court of Appeal and Ellie was returned to Butler and her mother Jennie Gray, 38, in November 2012.
The inquest at Croydon Coroner’s Court is examining whether there were failures on the part of the authorities over Ellie’s murder, including the sharing of information between organisations.
Catherine Harris was employed as an independent social worker by Sutton Council in July 2012, prior to Mrs Justice Hogg’s ruling in September of that year.
Giving evidence Ms Harris said she believed her agency, Services for Children (S4C) were part of a system who had let her down.
She said: ‘I think with the benefit of hindsight Ellie was let down by an entire system of which S4C was part of. Ellie is now dead so she was let down by a system and S4C was part of that system.’
Ben Butler, 38, is serving life with a minimum of 23 years for beating his six-year-old daughter to death
Ms Harris agreed that there had been a focus on what the parents wanted during Ellie’s move from her grandparents home in November 2012.
The inquest heard that following Ellie’s move, Gray attended hospital on at least two occasions in December 2012 and January 2013.
Gray also had bruising and there were concerns she was the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of Butler but hospital notes had been ‘lost’.
Ms Harris said: ‘We weren’t in a position to assess this. We were aware of references to domestic violence but getting follow-up on this was contradictory.
‘The first time we were aware that domestic violence was considered a significant issue in this case was when we had the information about the January admission and I think Wendy Jones, the manager from Sutton said something. I said is there concerns from the hospital about domestic violence and she said those notes have been lost.
‘When I followed it up she said the issue of domestic violence wasn’t being followed because there was contradictory information.’
Counsel for the inquest Adam Wiseman QC put several questions from Ellie’s parents to the social worker.
He said: ‘Did you ever have any concern for her physical welfare?’
‘No I didn’t’, she replied.
‘When you visited the family in March 2013 did you have any concerns about Ellie?’
Ms Harris said: ‘I didn’t have any concerns.’
Ellie went to live with her grandparents after Butler was convicted of shaking her when she was a baby. But the conviction was quashed in the Court of Appeal and Ellie was returned to Butler and her mother Jennie Gray, 38, (pictured) in November 2012
Butler was convicted of Ellie’s murder in 2016 and its serving a life sentence with a minimum of 23 years. He has appeared via prison video link during the inquest.
Gray was convicted of child cruelty and perverting the course of justice after helping Butler stage the tot’s murder as a ‘tragic accident’.
During the trial at the Old Bailey in 2016, jurors heard how the pair staged the scene to make it look like an accident.
The six-year-old had been left to die in her bedroom for two hours on the 28 October 2013 before Butler and Gray called emergency services.
The jury did not accept their string of far-fetched theories, including a fall from a tiny chair as Ellie copied her favourite cartoon character Peppa Pig.
The inquest continues.