Judge criticises social workers for failing to take action over baby who was murdered by her adoptive father

Victoria Ward
Matthew Scully-Hicks was convicted of murder and jailed for a minimum term of 18 years - WALES NEWS SERVICE

A senior family court judge has criticised social services for failing to take action when a baby who was later murdered by her adoptive father suffered multiple injuries at home.

Mr Justice Moor said Elsie Scully-Hicks sustained a “real shiner” of a bruise in the months before she was killed and yet there was a “straightforward acceptance” by social services that it had been an accident.

Weeks earlier, Elsie had broken her leg.

Paramedics were called when she was later alleged to have fallen down the stairs.

But although the number of “serious incidents” involving Elsie were “climbing rapidly,” the explanation given by her father, Matthew Scully-Hicks, was again accepted by both social workers and doctors at the hospital, the judge said.

Elsie Scully-Hicks was just 18 months-old when she died Credit: PA

At the time, Scully-Hicks, 31, and his husband, Craig Scully-Hicks, were fostering Elsie.

But there was an “unequivocal recommendation” by the the Vale of Glamorgan local authority that they should adopt her and the judge noted that it “never crossed the mind of any professional that there was anything untoward.”

Two weeks after she was formally adopted, in May 2016, 18-month-old Elsie was shaken and beaten to death at the family home in Cardiff by Scully-Hicks, a former fitness instructor.

An independent review is underway that will consider whether social workers and health professionals missed chances to step in and prevent her murder.

Mr Justice Moor’s family court judgement was released on Monday following the completion of the criminal trial in which Scully-Hicks was convicted of murder and jailed for a minimum term of 18 years.

He had been asked to make findings of fact to help social services staff make decisions about the care of Elsie's sibling and analysed issues at a family court hearing in December 2016.

Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, murdered his daughter Elsie  Credit: Andrew Matthews /PA

The judge expressed concern that Elsie’s injuries had not been brought to the attention of the adoption court and described Scully-Hicks as a "Jekyll and Hyde character" who was unable to cope when Elsie played up.

His 34-page report also revealed that Craig Scully-Hicks had left his “monster” of a husband in November 2016, six months after she died, convinced that he was lying and had killed her.

“He did not have any idea as to what was going on,” the judge said. “It has deeply shocked and stunned him.

“If that is not the case, he is a better actor than Lord Olivier but I am clear he was not acting in any way. He is a devastated man who has found it almost impossible to accept what he now knows is true.”

The judge said Craig Scully-Hicks had denied any failure to protect and said the man (Matthew) that injured Elsie bore no resemblance to the man he married.

“They have separated and there will be no reunification or reconciliation,” he said.

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