Ben Butler murder trial: Father was 'devoted' to daughter

ben butler ellie butler Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption Ben Butler denies causing catastrophic head injuries to Ellie in 2013

A father accused of murdering his six-year-old daughter was "completely devoted" to her and had never been violent, her mother told a jury.

Ben Butler denies causing catastrophic head injuries to Ellie Butler.

"He was completely devoted, completely in love with the fact that he was a dad," Mr Butler's partner, Jennie Gray, told the Old Bailey.

"All you're hearing is some horror story like our house was some house of horrors. And that is just not true."

Mr Butler, 36, denies murdering Ellie in a "violent rage", insisting she fell off a stool while playing a game in her bedroom at their home in Sutton, south-west London, in October 2013.

The prosecution claims Ellie died after suffering skull fractures from being thrown against a wall or hit with a heavy blunt weapon.

The court has heard he was previously convicted for shaking Ellie as a baby, although this was later quashed on appeal.

The couple then won a High Court judgement to have Ellie returned to their care in 2012.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jennie Gray has admitted perverting the course of justice but denies child cruelty

The court has been shown hundreds of text messages between Mr Butler and Ms Gray in which he is abusive and uses violent language.

Ms Gray, also 36, said the texts came across as "harsher than they were" and that his "bark is definitely worse than his bite".

She told jurors he used to threaten her but they were empty threats.

"He would say I'll maim you, I'll get you, and I would sit there in my room and say 'yeah of course you will treacle'."

She added: "I'm not afraid of Ben Butler. He does not scare me. I never felt like that. We were both very, very bad to each other. But I didn't feel threatened."

She said he was an "amazing" parent and their behaviour was "very happy, very united" in front of Ellie.

Ms Gray, a graphic designer, said Mr Butler had supported her decision to have Ellie after they were both "shocked" to learn she had become pregnant in 2006.

Following a traumatic birth, Ms Gray said he had visited Ellie daily once she had left the hospital with her.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ben Butler said he found Ellie dead in the family home in Sutton

In February 2007, Ms Gray said when she dropped Ellie off with Mr Butler, he said: "Cor, she's pale, isn't she?"

Later, Mr Butler's friend phoned Ms Gray to tell her to get to the hospital.

During this phone call, she could hear Mr Butler screaming that Ellie was not breathing, Ms Gray told the court.

At the hospital, they were told that Ellie had been "violently shaken", she said.

Ellie was then taken to another hospital but not before "many mistakes" had been made by the hospital, where staff "misdiagnosed" her, Ms Gray said.

She said she "went to pieces" after Ellie was taken into care, and turned to alcohol before Mr Butler helped her to survive.

Ms Gray has admitted perverting the course of justice in the wake of Ellie's death but denies child cruelty over an untreated broken shoulder.

The trial continues.

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