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Dad’s ‘hot temper caused child’s death’

Jennie Gray and Ben Butler

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Julia Quenzler

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Jennie Gray and Ben Butler are accused of covering up the murder

A father with a “hot temper” killed his six-year-old daughter and then staged a plot with the child’s mother to cover the murder, the Old Bailey has heard.

Ellie Butler died from a “catastrophic” head injury allegedly inflicted by her father Ben when he was left alone with her at their home in south-west London.

With his partner Jennie Gray, he set an “elaborate” cover-up to make it look like an accident, jurors were told.

Mr Butler, 36, denies murder and they both deny child cruelty charges.

Prosecutor Edward Brown QC said: “Ben Butler was an angry and violent man with a short fuse.

“The make-up of the man dominated his and his family’s domestic life. The evidence will demonstrate him to be consistently teetering on the edge of a violent loss of temper.”

Ellie Butler died at home in Westover Close in Sutton, south-west London, in October 2013.

She had “very significant fractures to her skull” as the result of “really significant force”, jurors were told.

There were also underlying brain and eye injuries as well as bruises consistent with fingers gripping under her jaw.

Mr Brown said they were inflicted in brief but “devastating moments”.

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Ellie Butler died at her home in Sutton

He added that Mr Butler and Ms Gray, who is also 36, staged a “charade” and put on “desperate urgency” in a 999 call made two hours after Ellie was fatally hurt.

He told the court that Mr Butler rang Ms Gray first instead of calling the emergency services.

They then allegedly “staged” the home by putting clothes in the wash, dumping documents in a communal bin and sent each other texts in an attempt to appear normal.

Mr Brown said the “clear and intended implication” of what they each said was that Ellie had been the victim of a “tragic accident”, discovered moments before they rang 999.

Paramedics arrived to find Ellie in her bedroom, lying on her back on the floor next to an overturned stool by her wardrobe where the parents said they found her, jurors heard.

“The dreadful reality is that both defendants put themselves before the well-being or dignity of that little girl,” said Mr Brown.

He added that Ms Gray tried to protect Mr Butler, who had “significant” control over her, while Mr Butler acted to “save himself”.

The court heard that in the weeks leading up to the death, Ellie suffered a broken shoulder, but neither parent sought medical treatment for her.

The trial continues.

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