The birth family of tragic 18-month-old girl Elsie Scully-Hicks have said she would ‘still be alive today’ if she had not been taken away from them as her adoptive father was jailed for life for murdering her.
Former fitness instructor Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years in prison for murdering Elsie just two weeks after formally adopting her.
A court heard today murdered the ‘vulnerable and defenceless’ toddler after calling her ‘Satan in a Babygro’ and telling her to ‘shut the f*** up’ at his home in Llandaff, Cardiff.
He was given a life sentence after he subjected Elsie to months of horrific assaults.
The court was today told she suffered a cardiac arrest and was bleeding behind the eyes following a string of horrific assaults while she was alone with stay-at-home father Scully-Hicks.
Following months of abuse Scully-Hicks killed the youngster after violently shaking her and banging her head on a hard surface just two weeks after she was formally adopted by him and his 36-year-old husband Craig.
Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, when sentencing Scully-Hicks, took into account a victim impact statement – which was not read in court – provided by Elsie’s birth family.
In the statement, which can now be reported, the natural family of Elsie – who was originally named Shayla O’Brien – said they were ‘numb with pain’.
Speaking on behalf of the family, her birth grandmother Sian O’Brien said: ‘I accept that at the time of giving birth my daughter was living a chaotic lifestyle and was not in a position to care for Shayla and she was removed from the hospital five days after birth by social services.
‘As a family, we continued to have contact with Shayla whilst she was in the care of the foster family.’
Ms O’Brien said all of Elsie’s family were ‘extremely attached to her and loved her very much’.
She said: ‘In January 2015, I started proceedings in the family court to become the legal guardian for Shayla.
‘I wanted to bring her up in a happy, healthy and warm family environment, that was all taken away from me when social services and the family court decided I would not be able to cope.’
The statement continued: ‘We all continue to fight on even though every day we are numb with pain and hurt deep in the knowledge that Shayla was loved unconditionally by us all as a family and knowing that had she not been taken away from us, she would still be alive today.’
The court heard in the weeks before her death, Elsie suffered a number of suspicious injuries including bruises and broken a leg after she had ‘fallen down the stairs’.
And today, Scully-Hicks was emotionless when he was told he must serve a minimum of 18 years behind bars as Mrs Justice Davies said Elsie was a ‘young, vulnerable and defenceless child’.
Social services in the Vale of Glamorgan now face an investigation after they visited the family 15 times but still raised no concerns – despite finding out the severity of her injuries.
Passing sentence, Mrs Justice Davies, said: ‘Elsie was aged just 18 months when you killed her, a young, vulnerable and defenceless child.
‘She had been entrusted to the care of yourself and your husband, Craig Scully-Hicks, her adoptive fathers.
Shortly before 6.19pm on May 25 2016 you inflicted injuries of such severity upon Elsie as to cause her immediate collapse and her death on May 29.
‘In deliberately inflicting serious injuries upon your 18-month-old adopted daughter you abused the trust which had been placed in you as Elsie’s adoptive father.
‘It was a gross abuse of that trust. It was an abuse of the responsibility which had been placed upon you as her adoptive father to protect and care for this young, vulnerable and defenceless child.
Listing her injuries, the judge added: ‘Elsie suffered a cardiac arrest. She sustained hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy, a brain injury including subdural haematoma, bleeding in the eyes, the retina, the perimacular folds and in the area of the optic nerve.
‘These injuries were sustained when you gripped Elsie around the chest, your fingers were on her back exerting pressure which fractured her ribs.
‘Having gripped Elsie you shook her with such force as to cause further injuries. The fracture to the skull was caused by an impact with a hard surface.
‘Her collapse would have swiftly followed, that having occurred you called the emergency services.’
The judge added Scully-Hicks’s case was aggravated by Elsie’s vulnerability due to her age and an abuse of a position of trust.