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Ellie Butler inquest: Agencies ‘did not contribute to girl’s death’

Ellie Butler Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Ellie Butler was murdered by her father 11 months after returning to his care

Failings by agencies over the care of a six-year-old girl who was murdered by her father did not contribute to her death, a coroner has ruled.

Ellie Butler was battered to death by her father Ben Butler in October 2013, 11 months after being returned to his care at the family’s south London home.

Butler, who was accused of shaking Ellie as baby, was jailed for life with a minimum of 23 years for her murder.

The coroner, Dame Linda Dobbs, ruled that Ellie was unlawfully killed.

Concluding the inquest at South London Coroner’s Court, she added: “On the evidence I am unable to conclude that any acts or omissions by the relevant agencies possibly or probably contributed to the death of Ellie.”

Dame Linda said it was “unclear” if all recommendations from a Serious Case Review into Ellie’s death “have been implemented and audited”.

The review found Sutton Children Services felt “powerless to act” following the High Court’s ruling which led to Ellie returning to her parents.

Butler was convicted of Ellie’s murder after a trial in June 2016. Ellie’s mother Jennie Gray was also jailed for three and a half years for child cruelty and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Image copyright Met Police/PA
Image caption Ben Butler and Jennie Gray were jailed in June 2016

Ellie had been placed into the care of her grandparents Neal and Linda Gray when she was a baby after Butler was accused of shaking her.

He successfully appealed and the Family Court ruled that Ellie’s parents had been “exonerated” of causing her injuries and she was returned to their home in Sutton in July 2012.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Ellie was cared for by her grandparents for five years after Ben Butler was accused of shaking her as a baby

Timeline of events leading up to Ellie’s death

  • February 2007: At six weeks old and in the sole care of her father, Ellie was found to be “suddenly soft and limp”. Scans showed she had serious injuries
  • June 2007: Ellie was placed in the care of her grandparents
  • January 2008: The Family Court found that, on the balance of probability, Butler caused Ellie’s injuries and Gray failed to protect her
  • March 2009: Butler was convicted of grievous bodily harm and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He had a history of offending and violence
  • June 2010: His criminal conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal on the basis of new medical evidence
  • July 2012: The Family Court overturned an order which protected Ellie from her parents. It exonerated Butler and said that any injury caused to Ellie was “purely accidental”.
  • An independent social work agency was appointed to replace Sutton Council’s social workers to oversee the children being returned to their parents.
  • The children were not subject to any court orders which had an effect of preventing agencies (social workers, child protection, schools etc) from having any further involvement
  • November 2012: Ellie was returned to her parents’ care
  • October 2013: Ellie was murdered
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