Social Media


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Man who murdered adopted baby girl was 'Jekyll and Hyde' character, says judge

Written by Johanna Carr, Claire Hayhurst and Brian Farmer

A part-time fitness instructor who murdered his adopted baby daughter was a "Jekyll and Hyde" character who managed to convince his husband and the authorities that he was a "model citizen and parent", a family court judge has said.

Matthew Scully-Hicks passed the rigorous adoption process with "flying colours" and seemed "eminently suitable", before being allowed to adopt two young children, according to Mr Justice Moor.

But despite presenting as a "man of the utmost respectability and good character who showed kindness, love, patience and care to anyone in whom he came into contact, including children" the 31-year-old was "quite unable to control himself" when it came to looking after his youngest child Elsie.

Mr Justice Moor published a fact-finding judgment, completed in relation to care proceedings for Elsie's adopted sibling - known only as C - on Monday.

In the report, he said Elsie had suffered two previous episodes of shaking by her father in the eight months he had care of her before he inflicted the fatal injuries on May 25 2016, including one in which her leg was broken in two places.

During the third and final shaking episode, when Elsie was 18 months old and just two weeks after she had been formally adopted, Scully-Hicks violently shook her and threw her to the floor at their home in Llandaff, Cardiff, causing a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain.

She died four days later in hospital.

Scully-Hicks, who gave up work to care for the couple's children, denied harming Elsie but was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 18 years after being convicted of murder at Cardiff Crown Court.

In his judgment Mr Justice Moor, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, said: "I have come to only one conclusion. Matthew Scully-Hicks is a Jekyll and Hyde character.

"In private, he was quite unable to control himself when Elsie played up. He was able to cope without difficulty when there were others around."

Mr Justice Moor said witnesses who had given evidence to the family court were "truly shocked" by Scully-Hicks' behaviour when he was alone with Elsie.

"It was not the man they knew. It was not the man the social workers saw. It was not the man Craig Scully-Hicks knew," he wrote.

Neighbours reported that when Craig Scully-Hicks was at home, they heard "nothing" but when his husband was alone with Elsie the situation changed.

James Bevan, who lived next door told the court he would heard a baby girl crying on a regular basis.

Mr Justice Moor said: "The baby once screamed and he heard "shut up you little f****** brat" and "shut up you silly little c***"

"A music player was then turned up next door "ridiculously loudly".

Mr Justice Moor said he found Scully-Hicks turned the music up because "could not risk the neighbours hearing Elsie's distress".

Mr Justice Moor ruled that Elsie had been shaken three times by Scully-Hicks.

The first occasion took place on November 5 in 2015 - weeks after the little girl had been placed with the family - and Elsie suffered two broken bones as a result of it.

"I find that it was shaking with her legs flailing around such that two bones were broken," the judge wrote.

"There may well have been bleeding on her brain. We will never know."

The second incident, on March 10 2016, saw Elsie being taken to hospital by ambulance after Scully-Hicks called 999 claiming she had fallen down the stairs.

But Mr Justice Moor said he did not accept the explanation as he was told Scully-Hicks was "Mr Safety by his own supporters".

"He would not allow the stair gate to remain open," he said.

Mr Justice Moor said Elsie suffered a head injury, including subdural bleeding.

However, this assault did not cause catastrophic injuries and Scully-Hicks failed to admit to professionals that he could not cope with caring for Elsie and C.

"He could not bring himself to do so and it eventually resulted in Elsie's death," he said.

Mr Justice Moor highlighted the differences between Scully-Hicks and his husband as they gave evidence during the family court proceedings.

During the trial at Cardiff Crown Court, Scully-Hicks did not show any remorse or emotion while his husband was clearly distressed throughout his evidence.

The family court judge said he found it "surprising" that Scully-Hicks showed no distress, apart from one brief occasion, "in a case that is fraught with emotion".

Scully-Hicks said there "was absolutely no truth in the allegation" that he had harmed Elsie and told the court he and his husband had separated because Craig Scully-Hicks accepted the medical evidence about how she had been injured.

Mr Justice Moor wrote: "It was Matthew's word against their word.

"He was devastated.

"He has lost his daughter. C is in care and his husband doesn't believe him. He had lost everything in the space of six months."

Mr Justice Moor described Craig Scully-Hicks as a "devastated man who has found it almost impossible to accept what he now knows is true".

He added that he had come to the "clear conclusion" that he should be exonerated of any failure to protect Elsie.

"There is nothing he could or should have done but I fear he may find that difficult to accept," said Mr Justice Moor.

He criticised the record keeping of council workers who attended an adoption review at the Scully-Hicks's home on December 17 2015.

Mr Justice Moor said two social workers - Cheryl Longley and Laura Neal - and Eryl Bowers, the Independent Reviewing Officer, all from the Vale of Glamorgan were present but had "virtually no independent recollection of the meeting".

He said: "Eryl Bowers kept the minutes. I am satisfied that the record keeping of all three witnesses was not good."

The meeting took place the day after Elsie suffered a large bruise on her forehead but the injury was not recorded in the minutes.

"This surprises me as all three social workers must have seen it," said Mr Justice Moor.

"It was a 'real shiner'.

"There is no reference to the explanation for it and it was not brought to the attention of the adoption court."

The judge added that concerns Elsie was developing a squint in the weeks before her death were also not reported to the adoption court.

There was a "straight-forward" acceptance the bruise suffered by Elsie was an accident and the judge said it also "never crossed the mind of any professional that there was anything untoward when Elsie apparently fell down the stairs".

Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Safeguarding Children Board are now carrying out an independent Child Practice Review to examine the "tragic circumstances" of Elsie's death, a spokesman said.

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