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Ellie Butler: Granddad of murdered girl disowns 'aggressive' daughter

Ellie Butler Image copyright PA
Image caption Ellie Butler died while at home with her father in 2013

The grandfather of murdered six-year-old Ellie Butler said he has disowned his "aggressive and threatening" daughter, Jennie Gray.

Neal Gray told BBC Radio 4 that his granddaughter was "petrified" of being returned to Ben Butler and her mother.

He described Gray as Butler's partner, not his daughter, as he had disowned her.

He said he and his wife "fought tooth and nail" to keep Ellie but were seen as "troublemakers".

Mr Gray has called for a public inquiry into the case, adding: "Everybody failed Ellie completely and utterly."

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Media captionNeal Gray told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire that his grandchild Ellie was "beautiful, bubbly, gorgeous"

The youngster went back to live with her parents 11 months before her death.

Butler, 36, was convicted of her murder on Tuesday and jailed for a minimum of 23 years. Ellie's mother (Mr Gray's daughter) was found guilty of child cruelty but had admitted perverting the course of justice. She was jailed for 42 months.

The exonerated father who went on to kill

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Media captionNeal Gray warned that those who returned Ellie to her parents could have blood on their hands.

Butler was convicted in 2009 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.

Mrs Justice Hogg sided with Butler despite objections from police, social services and Ellie's maternal grandfather, Mr Gray.

"We tried to fight it tooth and nail but every time we protested we were told we were troublemakers and we were elderly people and we weren't worthy of looking after children," Mr Gray said.

"I said I hope you all have a conscience because one day you might have blood on your hands."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ellie was returned to the care of her mother from Gray's "devoted" parents

Mr Gray said he and his wife used to take Ellie to a children's centre for troubled families every few weeks to see her parents but in two-and-a-half years, her father went only twice and her mother went four times.

"She hadn't known them as parents," he said. "But her mother turned around and said 'If you don't come back and live with mummy and daddy we won't love you anymore'."

Mr Gray said he had hoped to adopt Ellie and care for her until she was 18.

"She was fantastic, very bubbly, a beautiful little girl, always on the go all the time, lots of energy like little children have, very brainy, nobody's fool. It was the best years of our life."

He said Ellie had nightmares that social workers would come and return her back to her parents.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption In a home video played to jurors, Ellie is seen with a bruised eye standing in the kitchen while Butler is swearing down the phone

Mr Gray saw Ellie the day before she died, in October 2013.

"We had half an hour to see her and she wasn't the Ellie we knew.

"She had bruises on her forehead and scratches, her hair was all bedraggled. She had odd shoes, socks and clothes and looked as though she had been dragged through the back of a hedgerow.

"You could see her eyes were sunken and there was sadness in her eyes."

He added: "Stories from her and Butler saying she was rude and lazy are complete and utter false lies. She was a gorgeous little girl and it was a great privilege to be her grandparent."

Speaking to the Victoria Derbyshire programme, he said: "You don't think one of your own offspring could possibly be involved in a terrible, tragic crime. Unfortunately she was," he said.

"I understand he was violent and controlling but I think she's also capable of being the same with him."

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption The couple had tried to cover up the death by lying to police

He added he thought the violence in the household was "50/50" between Butler and Gray, and that Gray should have been jailed for at least 20 years, and that Butler should have had 40 years.

"Jennie was aggressive and threatening. I had a premonition that Ellie wouldn't be safe.

"I think she [Jennie] knew what had happened because she knew what he was capable of."

He added that more needed to be done to protect vulnerable children.

"I believe the social services laws have got to be brought into the 21st century and the family courts system has to be changed radically.

"Somebody has got to stand up and make sure no other child gets hurt like my granddaughter got hurt.

"I will make it my goal for the rest of my life to fight for any child to be saved."

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