Elsie Scully-Hicks: Baby murder 'a rogue' adoption case

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Media caption,

Matthew Scully-Hicks made a 999 call two months before Elsie died claiming she fell down stairs

A review should find how a man slipped through a "comprehensive" adoption process and murdered his 18-month-old daughter two weeks after formally adopting her, a child protection expert has said.

Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, of Delabole, Cornwall, inflicted a catalogue of injuries on Elsie at their Cardiff home in the eight months he had care of her.

A child practice review will look the roles of agencies in the case.

David Niven, who is chairman of two safeguarding children boards in England, and former head of the British Association of Social Workers, called the case "rogue".

"Everybody will want to know what happened and what could've been done to stop it," he told BBC Wales' Good Morning Wales programme.

"Similar to other serious case reviews, all of the agencies involved will be looked at by an independent author that will be commissioned externally and will take people through the sequence of events of what happened.

"What this review is all about is looking at how people work together in partnership or possibly didn't work together in partnership, and missed things possibly that should've been found."

Scully-Hicks and his husband Craig went through a year-long assessment before being formally allowed to adopted Elsie.

Image source, South Wales Police
Image caption,
A jury unanimously found Matthew Scully-Hicks guilty of murdering 18-month-old Elsie

The couple decided Scully-Hicks would stay at home while Craig continued to work as a company director with frequent trips away overnight.

The trial heard social workers visited the family fortnightly as the baby settled into her new family and she was described as a "happy, smiley child".

But in text messages sent by the killer, he said he was "struggling to cope" when caring for Elsie - describing her as "Satan in a babygro" while neighbours reported hearing him swearing at the infant and repeatedly telling the crying child to "shut up".

On each occasion Elsie suffered injuries, the killer's husband was away with work, they were reported as domestic accidents and health visitors did not raise any concerns.

She died in May 2016, four days after the 999 call.

'Rogue things happen'

"It's difficult to say without all of the evidence of who did what, when and why, or who didn't do what, when and why in the meantime," Mr Niven said.

"I think when this is done and dusted a pattern about how they [agencies] worked together because obviously in this period there were at least three serious health matters that medics also attended and therefore must have been consulting with social workers on."

Media caption,

Mr Scully-Hicks called 999 to say Elsie was not breathing

Mr Niven hopes the case will not have an impact on those wanting to adopt.

"The tragedy in this is that we do not want to in any way deter people from the adoption process which is such a necessary and helpful process for so many children," he added.

"Occasionally rogue things happen and in this particular case it's not as if this family were being investigated as a risk family.

"They were investigated as a possible loving, caring home and that's the tragedy of it."