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Tuesday, 07 November 2017

Life with minimum term of 18 years for man who murdered adopted daughter

Written by Claire Hayhurst, Rod Minchin and Johanna Carr

A man who murdered his daughter two weeks after formally adopting her has been jailed for a minimum of 18 years.

Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, received a life sentence for violently shaking 18-month-old Elsie Scully-Hicks (pictured) and striking her head at their home in Llandaff, Cardiff, in May 2016.

He described the toddler as "a psycho", "the exorcist" and "Satan dressed up in a Baby grow" in text messages to friends and family members.

Cardiff Crown Court heard he struggled to cope with being the primary carer for Elsie as his husband, Craig Scully-Hicks, 36, worked full-time.

Scully-Hicks denied murder but a jury unanimously convicted him of the charge on Monday following a four-week trial at Cardiff Crown Court.

Passing sentence, Mrs Justice Davies said: "Elsie was aged just 18 months when you killed her, a young, vulnerable and defenceless child.

"She had been entrusted to the care of yourself and your husband, Craig Scully-Hicks, her adoptive fathers.

"Shortly before 18.19pm on May 25 2016 you inflicted injuries of such severity upon Elsie as to cause her immediate collapse and her death on May 29."

"The injuries were sustained when you gripped Elsie around the chest, your fingers were on her back exerting pressure which fractured her ribs.

"The fracture to the skull was caused by an impact with a hard surface. Her collapse would have swiftly followed, that having occurred you called the emergency services."

The judge said Scully-Hicks's case was aggravated by Elsie's vulnerability due to her age and an abuse of a position of trust.

"I find that aggravating your offending is the fact that your actions on May 25 were not isolated.

"I am satisfied you inflicted injuries upon Elsie in November 2015 which caused the fractures to her leg and in December 15 the large bruise to her forehead," the judge said.

"You had, and were aware that you had, a predisposition to injure your adoptive daughter.

"You took no steps to prevent a recurrence of the earlier incidents when Elsie suffered injuries as a result of your actions.

"It has been submitted on your behalf that a statutory mitigating factor is the lack of premeditation.

"In finding that you acted in anger I accept that represents a lack of premeditation.

"However, the absence of premeditation is tempered by the fact that your anger towards Elsie did not represent an isolated occasion and you knew that your anger could lead to deliberately inflicted injury.

"No remorse has been shown.

"You were living in comfortable social circumstances with the close support of professional agencies, your husband and wider family.

"You have been assessed by two independent psychiatrists who found no psychiatric condition which would have affected your actions."

Scully-Hicks showed no emotion as he was told he would spend a minimum of 18 years in prison.

A couple of people sitting in the public gallery were crying.

The judge referred to text messages the defendant had sent describing Elsie's meal times and bed time as "your worst nightmare".

"In more than one text you describe Elsie as having a 'diva strop', you refer to Elsie in strong and derogatory language," the judge said.

"The texts demonstrate your frustration at what you described as Elsie's attitude, her crying and her strops.

"To those who saw you regularly, be it healthcare professionals, social workers or friends and family you were a loving and caring father.

"The difficult times were when you were alone with Elsie or with her and her adoptive sibling.

"You deny being unable to cope with two children but the texts indicate otherwise."

The judge said that had a doctor in November 2015 spotted Elsie's double leg fracture then University of Hospital Wales's protocol would have meant she would have been assessed by a consultant.

"(In evidence) Dr Nia John, a consultant community paediatrician at the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, who had a safeguarding children role, said that had the existence of both fractures been detected, the management would have been different, a child protection medical would have been carried out, Dr John would have sought further medical advice," the judge said.

"Tragically the opportunity was missed."

The judge said the evidence of neighbours who heard Scully-Hicks shouting at a crying baby was evidence of your "continuing frustration with and anger towards Elsie whose crying was causing considerable difficulty for you".

"You are an intelligent man.

"You would have known you were struggling to cope with Elsie.

"You knew that in November and December your frustration and anger towards Elsie had resulted in injuries to her," the judge said.

"You told no one the truth of what had occurred nor the reason for it.

"Regular visits were made by social workers and the health visitor.

"To no one, not even your husband, did you have the courage to speak of your difficulties.

"You put your own self-interest before that of the young child you had been entrusted to protect.

"To Craig and the professionals you continued to present as a concerned, caring and loving father.

"What people did not see or hear, because they were not in the house at the time, was the frustration and anger which you were demonstrating because of your inability to cope with your young adoptive daughter."

The judge said Elsie's fatal injuries were inflicted between meal time and bed time - a time when Elsie was known to cry.

"It was Elsie's behaviour, your frustration with it which turned to anger, which led you to inflict the serious injuries which swiftly led to her collapse," the judge said.

"The force which you used in gripping Elsie was sufficient to cause the fractures of the ribs, the shaking sufficient to cause severe brain and eye injury.

"In deliberately inflicting serious injuries upon your 18-month-old adoptive daughter you abused the trust which had been placed in you as Elsie's adoptive father. It was a gross abuse of that trust.

"It was an abuse of the responsibility which had been placed upon you as her adoptive father to protect and care for this young, vulnerable and defenceless child.

"Your actions in killing Elsie have devastated three families - the birth family of Elsie, the family you had sought to build with Craig Scully-Hicks and your own birth family."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) South Wales Police / PA Wire.