London

Ben Butler murder trial: Ellie 'killed after conviction quashed'

Ben Butler with Ellie Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption Ben Butler had a conviction for causing Ellie head injuries quashed in 2010

A "hot-tempered" father accused of killing his six-year-old daughter had a conviction for assaulting her as a baby quashed, a court has heard.

Ben Butler, 36, was found guilty of causing serious head injuries to Ellie Butler in 2007 but this was overturned three years later.

Her parents won a High Court ruling to return her to the family from foster care.

Mr Butler denies killing Ellie and staging a plot to cover up the murder.

At the Old Bailey, he also denied child cruelty charges.

Ellie's mother Jennie Gray, 36, also denies this charge but has admitted perverting the course of justice by giving a false account of what she did on the day Ellie died.

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'Teetering on the edge'

Jurors were told Mr Butler caused "catastrophic" head injuries to Ellie at their home in Westover Close, Sutton in south-west London, while Ms Gray was at work in October 2013.

She had "very significant fractures to her skull" as the result of "really significant force", the court heard.

There were also underlying brain and eye injuries as well as bruises consistent with fingers gripping under her jaw, jurors heard.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jennie Gray and Ben Butler are accused of covering up the murder

Prosecutor Edward Brown QC said they were inflicted in brief but "devastating moments".

He added: "Ben Butler was an angry and violent man with a short fuse.

"The make-up of the man dominated his and his family's domestic life. The evidence will demonstrate him to be consistently teetering on the edge of a violent loss of temper."

'Charade'

Following Ellie's death, Mr Butler rang Ms Gray rather than the emergency services and together they set an "elaborate" cover-up to make it look like an accident, jurors were told.

They then allegedly "staged" the home by putting clothes in the wash, dumping Ms Gray's torn up diary in a communal bin and sent each other texts in an attempt to appear normal.

He also took the dog out for a walk, commenting on the weather to a neighbour as Ellie lay dead, jurors heard.

Afterwards, the couple allegedly staged a "charade" and put on "desperate urgency" in a 999 call made two hours after Ellie was fatally hurt.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Six-year-old Ellie Butler died at her home in Sutton

Mr Brown said the "clear and intended implication" of what they each said was that Ellie had been the victim of a "tragic accident", discovered moments before they rang 999.

Paramedics arrived to find Ellie in her bedroom, lying on her back on the floor next to an overturned stool by her wardrobe where the parents said they found her, jurors heard.

Magic spells

"The dreadful reality is that both defendants put themselves before the well-being or dignity of that little girl," said Mr Brown.

He added that Ms Gray tried to protect Mr Butler, who had "significant" control over her, while Mr Butler acted to "save himself".

Jurors were told that an "unrelenting stream" of messages show that Mr Butler was a frustrated and angry house husband who expressed hatred for his daughter as well as contempt for Ms Gray.

Ellie's mother also searched the internet for "magic spells to make him love me again" and "urgent spell to make him be sorry for hurting me".

The court heard that in the weeks leading up to the death, Ellie suffered a broken shoulder, but neither parent sought medical treatment for her.

The trial continues.