Six-year-old girl had requested to speak with judge who exonerated father before he violently killed her
6-year-old Ellie Butler was reportedly asked to meet the judge who handed her back to her parents before she was killed by her father.
Six-year-old Ellie Butler was battered to death by her father, Ben Butler, in 2013 at their family home in Sutton, south London. But some new details have now emerged that suggests that her death could have been avoided if the presiding judge had granted the child's request for an audience.
Ellie was placed under the care of her maternal grandparents as a baby after Butler was accused of shaking her, resulting in head and retinal injuries which required treatment at the hospital. While the father, who has a long criminal history, was arrested and convicted of grievous bodily harm, a decision by Justice Mary Hogg in 2012 saw her put back into the care of her parents.
Butler was cleared of his child abuse charges on a technicality by the Court of Appeals in 2010. Riding on a wave of public support, he used the media to make him look like the victim, retelling horrifying stories from his time in the prison's pedophile wing and claiming his precious daughter was being kept away from him.
The London Borough of Sutton, however, was determined to ensure that Ellie would stay in the care of her grandparents, fearing that it was only a matter of time before Butler reverted to his despicable behavior. And after he won the epic custody battle following Hogg's ruling in 2013, only 11 months would pass before he laid hands on his daughter once again; this time, fatally.
As reported by the Evening Standard, the headteacher at the Beddington Infants' School where she attended, Elizabeth Kearney, said she became concerned after she was informed the six-year-old wished to speak to Hogg about her decision.
Kearney told the South London Coroner's Court in Croydon that she wrote a letter to the judge in the months after her ruling handing the child back to the parents expressing her numerous concerns but did not send it because she felt it would not sway Hogg's decision.
She reportedly detailed out concerns where she feared Ellie would longer be able to continue the 'loving relationships' she had since formed with her grandparents and that she would be forced to move to another school away from her friends. She said she was also worried about the plan for the 'handover' to take place at the school, which she wanted to keep a 'neutral' venue for the child.
Kearney told the court that considering Ellie, 'a five-year-old child, had asked to speak to the judge...I felt I needed to do something about that," adding that those feelings led to her 'rightly or wrongly' penning the letter in question.
Butler - who was found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey in London and was sentenced to life with a minimum of 23 years in prison - was listening to the court session via video link from prison. When Kearney claimed that the six-year-old asked to see the judge, he interrupted and shouted: "Who says she asked?!"
While Butler received a life sentence, his partner and Ellie's mother Jennie Gray was sentenced to 42 months behind bars after admitting to perverting the course of justice and being found guilty of child cruelty for leaving Ellie with an untreated shoulder fracture in the days leading up to her death.
Both grandfather and grandmother wanted justice for the girl they described as 'shining light' and 'full of life.' While the grandmother, Linda Gray, tragically passed away on the day the trial began at Old Bailey, the grandfather, Neal Gray, is continuing the fight.
Speaking about his granddaughter, he told the Guardian: "Ellie was a beautiful girl; always full of life. It was both a joy and a privilege to have known her, and I am enormously proud that she was my granddaughter. Kind, clever and polite, Ellie had lots of friends, and was adored by her family; particularly by my late wife, Lin, with whom Ellie had a very special bond."
"Ellie came to live with us late in our lives, but she was like a breath of fresh air. We both absolutely idolized her; she gave us a new lease of life, and we will be forever grateful to her for enriching our lives," he further added.