A gay father who murdered his adopted 18-month-old daughter was visited by social services 15 times but they still raised no concerns – despite finding out she had broken her leg and had ‘fallen down the stairs’.
Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, subjected little Elsie Scully-Hicks to months of horrific assaults and was heard shouting ‘shut the f*** up’ at her in his home in Llandaff, Cardiff.
The toddler suffered a string of suspicious injuries before Scully-Hicks eventually killed her just two weeks after she was formally adopted by the fitness instructor and his husband Craig, 36.
Scully-Hicks also shook the toddler while he was looking after her and threw her against a hard floor.
Social workers paid at least more than a dozen visits to the couple’s home from January 2015 and the pair had to undergo months of training, assessment and meetings.
Adoption officials have now launched an investigation after Scully-Hicks was convicted of murdering Elsie.
Cardiff Crown Court heard Scully-Hicks branded her ‘a psycho’, ‘the exorcist’ and ‘Satan dressed up in a Babygro’ in text messages.
Scully-Hicks, who sobbed when he was convicted, denied murdering her but was today found guilty by a jury after a four week trial.
The court heard that on January 2015 the couple were visited by a adoption manager after expressing a desire to become fathers.
Between the meeting and her death, social workers visited their home 15 times and the toddler suffered bruises, had broken her leg and had fallen down the stairs at the house.
Social services in the Vale of Glamorgan now face a formal investigation over whether they missed chances to save Elsie.
On the day of Elsie’s death, Scully-Hicks took her shopping for an outfit for her to wear at a party to celebrate her adoption with family and friends.
He sent pictures of outfits at Marks & Spencer to his husband and purchased one for Elsie to wear.
But instead he shook her and then threw her to the ground, leaving his daughter fatally injured.
The court heard the youngster suffered a string of injuries when she was alone with stay-at-home dad Scully-Hicks.
Prosecutor Paul Lewis QC said Elsie was found unresponsive by paramedics after Scully-Hicks attacked her at his home.
She died at University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, after doctors decided she would not survive her traumatic head injuries.
Mr Lewis said: ‘The injuries that caused her death were inflicted upon her by the defendant shortly before he called emergency services that day.
‘His attack upon her that day was not the first time he had employed violence towards Elsie, nor was it the first time he had caused her serious injury.
‘His actions on the late afternoon of May 25 were the tragic culmination of a course of violent conduct on his part towards a defenceless child – an infant that he should have loved and protected, but whom he instead assaulted, abused, and ultimately murdered.’
The court heard Scully-Hicks also sent messages to husband Craig calling Elsie ‘a psycho’ and ‘Satan dressed up in a Babygro.’
Neighbour Susan Bevan, who lived in the joining semi-detached house to the couple, said things changed when Elsie moved in.
Mr Lewis said: ‘On one occasion she heard a little girl crying and ‘the one who stayed at home’ having a rant and shouting ‘shut up, shut up, shut the f*** up.”
Mrs Bevan’s adult son, James, also heard Matthew Scully-Hicks shouting ‘shut up you little f***ing brat’ and ‘shut up you silly little c***.’
The court heard Elsie suffered a broken leg, just above her right ankle, just two months after being in the care of Scully-Hicks.
Over the next seven months she also had mystery bruises on her head and was rushed to hospital in March last year after allegedly falling down the stairs.
A post mortem examination found Elsie suffered bleeding behind both eyes as well as rib fractures and a skull fracture which the pathologist said was ‘as the result of an impact to the head.’
Consultant paediatrician Dr Stephen Rose said he believed Elsie’s injuries were caused by being ‘shaken violently.’
Elsie was first put in the care of Scully-Hicks in September 2015 and the process was finalised nearly eight months later.
Child protection chiefs will now grill social workers over whether they missed chances to save Elsie from her abusive adoptive father.
Experts will investigate whether Scully-Hicks could have been stopped before he shook his daughter to death.
Social workers and health visitors noted various injuries to Elsie’s body including bruises to her head and a broken leg.
Elsie was even rushed to hospital after vomiting blood – but Scully-Hicks claimed she had fallen down the stairs.
But officials didn’t raise any concerns which would have stopped the adoption process and potentially saved Elsie.
Elsie’s adoption was overseen by the Vale of Glamorgan Council – and senior figures will be quizzed over their handling of the case.
A Child Practice Review is being launched by the Cardiff and Vale Regional Child Safeguarding Board and the probe could take up to a year to complete.
They will discuss whether chances were missed with Elsie and whether any lessons can be learned to prevent similar cases in the future.
A spokesman for the board said: ‘Now that the criminal proceedings have concluded, the Regional Safeguarding Children Board will seek assurance that the independent child practice review, which has already been commissioned, into the tragic circumstances of the child’s death, will be progressed.
‘It would therefore not be appropriate for the Board to comment further until the conclusion of the independent review.’
Speaking outside court, Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Wales, of South Wales Police, said the circumstances of Elsie’s murder were ‘extremely rare’.
He said: ‘Our thoughts today are with little Elsie and those who knew and loved her.
‘Her untimely death at just 18 months old has had a devastating effect, first and foremost on her family, who remain uppermost in our thoughts.
‘Elsie’s death has also impacted a wider community, including the many professionals involved in her care and the subsequent investigation.
‘I would like to thank all of them, including the many witnesses who assisted the prosecution.
‘This case represents an extremely rare and distressing set of circumstances.
‘We at South Wales Police continue to respect and value the role that adoption, and those involved, play in our society.’
Lisa McCarthy, a senior crown prosecutor within CPS Cymru-Wales, described the case as ‘tragic’.
‘The evidence put forward by the CPS proved that Matthew Scully-Hicks was not only responsible for those injuries, but that he intended to seriously harm her,’ she said.
‘The prosecution built a case through careful and detailed analysis of witness accounts, medical evidence and the circumstances surrounding Elsie’s death.’
A spokesperson for the Vale of Glamorgan Council said: ‘The Regional Safeguarding Children Board, as the relevant statutory body, has commissioned an independent Child Practice Review into the tragic death of Elsie Scully-Hicks and it would be inappropriate for the Vale of Glamorgan Council to comment further until this independent review has concluded.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Martin Robinson and Abe Hawken