A father has been found guilty of murdering his six-year-old daughter – 11 months after winning a high-profile custody battle.
36-year-old Ben Butler killed Ellie while looking after her in October 2013.
A jury also found him and his partner Jennie Gray guilty of child cruelty.
They came up with an elaborate plot to destroy evidence – and make it look like an accident – before calling for an ambulance.
Ellie Butler’s absences from school and bruises should have been “a red flag” that she was being mistreated, a leading children’s charity has said.
The youngster was returned to her parents in November 2012 after High Court judge Mrs Justice Hogg ruled that her father Ben Butler had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice over a quashed conviction for shaking her as a baby.
In reality he was a violent thug and once back in his care, Ellie suffered a series of injuries including a broken shoulder that was left untreated for a month before she died at her father’s hands in late October 2013.
He and her mother Jennie Gray focused on hiding evidence instead of getting help for their daughter when she had been fatally injured.
An NSPCC spokesman said: “This tragedy raises serious questions about why Ellie was returned to the man who would eventually kill her – questions which a serious case review must address.
“There were signs such as absences from school and bruising which should have acted as a red flag that Ellie was in danger.
“Despite this she was left at the mercy of Ben Butler, who has shown himself to be a violent, aggressive and manipulative man, more concerned with covering his tracks than seeking medical help for his daughter.
“He was aided in this sickening crime by his partner Jennie Gray, who has been revealed to be just as conniving, deceptive and duplicitous. There are obviously lessons to be learned from such a harrowing case.”
Malcolm McHaffie, London deputy chief crown prosecutor, said Ellie’s parents “did all they could to divert the police investigation” away from Butler.
“Six-year-old Ellie Butler was murdered in her home, where she should have felt safe, by her violent father who should have loved and protected her,” he said.
“The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) presented evidence of Ben Butler’s contempt for his daughter and his aggressive nature and volatile temper through text messages and diary entries.
“We may never know exactly what happened in the last few hours of Ellie’s life, but the CPS built a strong case to show that her death was the result of deliberate violence by Butler.
“Butler and his partner and Ellie’s mother, Jennie Gray, did all they could to try to divert the police investigation away from any suspicion of Butler. However, the Crown’s expert medical evidence showed that Ellie’s catastrophic head injuries could not have been the result of an accident, but must have been deliberately inflicted.
“This was a complex and challenging case which involved a thorough police investigation and was clearly and carefully presented to the court by the CPS. Their hard work and dedication has helped secure justice for Ellie.”