NEWS
10/04/2018 14:04 BST | Updated 10/04/2018 17:59 BST

Ellie Butler 'Would Still Be Alive Today' If Agencies Had Acted, Grandfather Says

'Ellie was let down by fundamental failings in the system.'

Ellie Butler’s grandfather has said that she would “still be alive today” if the authorities had acted on concerns for her welfare, after an inquest found their failings did not contribute to her death.

Speaking on Tuesday, Neil Gray said that he was disappointed that agencies “have not had to account for the role they played” in Ellie’s death, after the six-year-old was battered to death by her father in 2013.

His comments come after Dame Linda Dobbs said at an inquest that she was not able to conclude that any omissions by agencies contributed to the child’s death. She ruled that Ellie was unlawfully killed.

Speaking to reporters after the inquest, Ellie’s grandfather revealed his disappointment at the lack of criticism of the agencies involved.

He said: “S4C (Services for Children), Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), and Sutton Children’s Services all accepted they had let her down.

“A verdict that Ellie was unlawfully killed is appropriate, but at the same time it is unbearably sad.

“I say this because I still believe that, had the childcare agencies worked together and shared information, and had the parents not been so readily believed, Ellie would still be alive today.”

Gray said he believed the agencies involved in Ellie’s care “have blood on their hands”, The Guardian reported. “They were not called to account in the coroner’s conclusions despite the fact that they accepted they had let Ellie down.” 

PA Wire/PA Images
Ellie Butler was battered to death by her father in 2013.

Ben Butler is serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 23 years after he was convicted of murdering his daughter in October 2013. He has repeatedly denied killing Ellie.

Ellie’s mother, Jennie Gray, was convicted of child cruelty and perverting the course of justice. She was sentenced to 42 months in prison.

Ellie was placed in the care of her grandparents as a baby after Butler was accused of shaking her when she was just a few weeks old. 

Butler was found guilty of assaulting Ellie but this was later quashed on appeal. 

Ellie was returned to the care of her birth parents in November 2012, despite her grandparents’ protestations. 

The inquest was examining whether there were failures on the part of the authorities in relation to Ellie’s death.

Becoming tearful, Gray said that any input from him or his late wife Linda during Ellie’s short life was “ignored”.

He added: “Ellie was let down by fundamental failings in the system. It is essential that lessons are learned so that no other child suffers like she did.

“I am pleased to report the coroner has ordered that there be a Prevention of Future Death report.

“I hope that it will make concrete conclusions and provide clear directions about how childcare agencies must work together, even when faced with hostile and evasive parents.”

He said he believed it may have been a missed opportunity not to have the inquest examine the court ruling which saw Ellie returned to her parents, which he described as a “dangerous home environment”.

Gray said this could have been a time to “reconsider and analyse the childcare law process and ensure that they are fit for purpose”.

Metropolitan Police/PA
Ben Butler and Jennie Gray who were jailed for their part in the death of their daughter Ellie Butler.

A statement from Services for Children read:

“The death of Ellie Butler is truly tragic. We remain deeply saddened and devastated by her ordeal, and our thoughts and sympathies are with her grandfather.

“The inquest looked at the relationships between authorities and agencies and we hope this will help to ensure that the most efficient system possible is in place to protect children in future.

“We will continue to be dedicated to supporting parents, families and professionals in caring for children.”

Christine Davies, independent chairwoman of the Sutton Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), said she welcomed the ruling and “thoroughness” of the inquest.

She said: “This was an exceptionally unusual case and an overwhelming one for those involved. Despite various failings which have been highlighted in the Serious Case Review the coroner is unable to conclude that any acts or omissions by the relevant agencies possibly or probably contributed to the death of Ellie.

“Over the past two years, the main agencies in Sutton responsible for children’s welfare have worked hard to learn the lessons from Ellie’s death and put in place measures to ensure, as far as possible, such a tragedy never occurs again.”