Father fought to win back custody of daughter in high profile case and then 11-months later beat her to death.

He claimed he was just a normal stay-at-home dad.

He claimed he treated his daughter like a princess, feeding her treats such as jam sandwiches and crisps for breakfast. They’d skivvy off school, he said, and go shopping for dress-up outfits while her mother worked in the city as a graphic designer.

He said that one day, while her mother was at work, he found six-year-old Ellie unconscious in her room, where she had been watching her favourite TV show, Peppa Pig, with her younger sister. He said she had been jumping up on down on her bed and tripped.

Ben Butler and Ellie, aged 6. Via BBC News

The evidence told a different story.

It told of violent man with a volcanic temper. It told of a volatile family life, of aggressive outbursts and resentment.

It told of a father who lost his temper and beat his terrified six-year-old daughter so violently that her head resembled “a boggy mass.”

It told of murder.

Shortly after killing his daughter Ben Butler, 36, from Sutton in the UK, called his partner, Jennie Gray and demanded she come home from work.

Gray flagged down a taxi, told the driver, “Can you take me, my child is really ill?” arriving home at around 1.50pm.

But it wasn't until two hours after Ellie died the pair placed a call to emergency services screaming in a distressed state down the phone pretending they had just discovered Ellie dead.

Listen to the call they placed to 999. Video via ITV News

But in actual fact Butler and Gray had spent the previous hour covering up how Ellie had died and re-arranging her room to stage the "accident."

Butler and Gray even attempted to cover their tracks by sending Ellie's younger sibling to discover her body, something for which the child has had to undergo therapy reports The Telegraph.


In a police interview Gray subsequently admitted that this had been a lie and Ellie had been dead when she got home.

Yesterday a British court found the pair guilty.

Butler was found guilty of the murder of his daughter, while Gray, who has appeared as an extra on British television shows, Eastenders and The Bill, was found guilty of covering up the murder.

The judge said he was satisfied Butler had caused a serious injury to his daughter on October 1.

“Thus it is that when, on October 28, you feeling under the weather and trying to catch up with your chores, lost your temper with Ellie and attacked her with lethal violence, it was not a tragic aberration but was all too consistent with your treatment of, and your attitude towards, her.”

Jennie Gray and Ben Butler campaigned to have Ellie returned. Via Facebook.

The treatment he was referring to began just weeks after Ellie was born.

In 2009 Butler was jailed for shaking Ellie in 2007 when she was just six weeks old.

While in the sole care of her father, Ellie was found to be "suddenly soft and limp". Scans showed she had serious injuries.

It was the second time he had cared for her – he and Gray had only met shortly before she fell pregnant and Butler had not even attended Ellie’s birth. The first time Butler looked after the newborn Ellie had suffered radiator burns to her head and hand.

After the shaking she was placed in the care of her grandparents and her father jailed.

He appealed and had his conviction overturned, but Ellie remained in the care of her grandparents.

In a blaze of publicity Butler took to the media to protest his innocence, appearing on high profile morning shows protesting his innocence. After a series of newspaper articles he insisted Ellie had been unfairly taken by social services from their family home by social services and that prosecutors had wasted public money pursuing him.

'If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone” he claimed.

The couple then won a High Court judgment to have Ellie returned to their care in 2012 in it the Family Court overturned an order that protected Ellie from her parents, exonerated Butler and said that any injury caused to Ellie was "purely accidental".

Mrs Justice Hogg sided with Butler despite objections from police, social services and Ellie's maternal grandfather, Neal Gray.


At the time, Mr Gray - who had cared for Ellie since she was a baby - had allegedly warned the judge she would have "blood on your hands".

But the judge said it was a 'joy' to see the family reunited and praised the pair's 'tenacity and courage'.

Bruising on Ellie's face in a home video. Images were shown to the court.

But the fairytale life was anything but.

The court heard that Butler was “"angry, overbearing and manipulative" with a "volatile temper" which could "explode at any time".

In the months leading up to Ellie's death he sent hundreds of abusive and threatening texts to Gray often directed at Ellie and a younger sibling.

Jurors heard how he frequently beat Gray up and threw her out onto the streets.

The court heard that Butler texted Gray that he was "about to flip" and called Gray a "dog whore" and a "bitch" on numerous occasions in 2013.

In secret diary entries, Gray described being kneed in her genitals and "badly hurt" by her partner.

She also searched the internet for "urgent spells" to make Butler stop hurting her and love her again, the court heard.

The court then heard a detailed descrition of the kind iof life lived by Ellie in those 11 months.

How Butler called Ellie a c**t and how she was so frightened of him she would frequently wet herself. How she was often absent from school and when questioned by the school Butler and Gray would be defensive and aggressive about her absences.

In the weeks before her death Ellie suffered a broken shoulder but neither Butler nor Gray sought medical treatment.

Butler called Ellie a c**t and she was so frightened of him she would frequently wet herself.

In sentencing Butler Judge Mr Justice Wilkie told him: "You are a self-absorbed, ill-tempered, violent and domineering man who... regarded your children and your partner as trophies, having no role other than to fit in with your infantile and sentimentalised fantasy of family life with you as the patriarch whose every whim was to be responded to."

But Butler, self absorbed till the last minute Butler shouted out: "I'll fight for the rest of my life - unbelievable," before adding: "I want to be sentenced now so I can fight in the Appeal Court."

"I will fight forever to prove this wrong. My daughter was jumping in the house. I'm 100% not guilty."

He was jailed for a minimum of 23 years. Gray was jailed for 42 months.

For help: Lifeline 13 11 14. Kid's Helpline: 1800 55 1800. DV and Sexual Abuse hotline 27/4: 1800 737 732 Men's helpline: 1300 78 99 78 

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