6 MSN Conversations We All Tragically Fell Victim To

Sian O'Brien said Matthew Scully-Hicks got off 'quite lightly' with a life sentence

  • Scully-Hicks murdered 18-month-old Elsie Scully-Hicks soon after adopting her

  • O'Brien voiced her frustration over being denied the chance to care for Elsie

  • O'Brien has asked the Government to investigate forced adoption and fostering

  • Two social services leaders retired shortly after little Elsie was killed in May 2016

  • By Abe Hawken and Kelly Mclaughlin For Mailonline > and Martin Robinson, Uk Chief Reporter For Mailonline

    Published: 04:08 EST, 12 November 2017 | Updated: 08:22 EST, 12 November 2017






    The adoptive father of tragic 18-month-old Elsie Scully-Hicks should be hanged for his crime, the girl's biological grandmother has said.

    Sian O'Brien said that Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, got off 'quite lightly' when he 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.

    O'Brien, who has adopted Elsie's older brother and sister, has previously voiced her frustration over being denied the chance to care for her granddaughter before she was handed over to Scully-Hicks, of Llandaff, Cardiff.

    Elsie Scully-Hicks was killed by one of her adoptive fathers Matthew Scully-Hicks has been jailed for life and must serve a minimum of 18 years

    Elsie Scully-Hicks (left) was killed by one of her adoptive fathers, Matthew Scully-Hicks (right) after being taken out of the care of her biological family

    'It's about justice for Shayla,' O'Brien told The Sun. 'I think [Scully-Hicks] has got off quite lightly.'

    When reporters asked O'Brien if former fitness instructor Scully-Hicks should be given the death sentence, she said: 'He should have.'

    Now O'Brien is asking people to sign a Facebook petition calling for the Government to hold an investigation into forced adoption and fostering.

    The petition accuses the Government of forcing adoptions to meet target goals, and claims social workers act without reasonable warning.

    The petition has more than 4,000 signatures and accuses the system of needlessly tearing families apart in favour of adoption when there are perfectly good and adequate options with family, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters'.


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    Director of social services at Vale of Glamorgan, Phil Evans, 65, retired this summer, and Hilary Southam, care leader at the Vale of Glamorgan social services, retired shortly after Elsie's death.

    Scully-Hicks 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.

    Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, shook Elsie Scully-Hicks before she was  'thrown against a hard floor' while he was looking after her at his home in Llandaff, Cardiff, on May 25 2016 Scully-Hicks is pictured above in his police mugshot

    Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, shook Elsie before she was 'thrown against a hard floor' while he was looking after her at his home in Llandaff, Cardiff, on May 25 2016

    In the statement, written by Shayla O'Brien, she said the family was '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'.

    Former director of social services Mr Evans had received a letter 17 days before Elsie's death that outlined the council's alleged failings.

    The letter said: 'There is a management layer unable to recognise its own deficits and incapable of exercising critical self-analysis.

    'The resulting practice is inefficient, costly, unprofessional and dangerous to service users and to social workers.'

    A former social worker told the Sun that staff were under pressure, caseloads were high and there was a large turnover of employees.

    The court heard Elsie suffered a number of shocking injuries including a fractured skull and internal bleeding 

    The court heard Elsie suffered a number of shocking injuries including a fractured skull and internal bleeding 

    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.

    A spokesperson for the Vale of Glamorgan Council said: 'The Regional Safeguarding Children Board, as the relevant statutory body, has commissioned an independent Child Practice Review into the tragic death of Elsie Scully-Hicks.

    Social workers visited the couple 15 times

    January 9 - Initial visit by adoption manager Bethan James 

    February 20 - Initial visit by Laura Neal, social worker, with the couple for assessment as potential adopters

    March 9, 20 and 30 - Further visits by Laura Neal to assess the Scully-Hicks

    April 13 - Further assessment visit by Laura Neal        

    July 30 - Laura Neal and Mark Lloyd-Selby, Elsie's social worker, visit the Scully-Hicks

    September 17 and 28 - Elsie observed during social work visits to the Scully-Hicks' home by Hillary Southam and Laura Neal  

    September 29 - Adoption review at the house with social workers and independent reviewing officer Erol Bowers

    December 2 - Visit by social worker Cheryl Longley 

    January 26 - Social worker visit with Cheryl Longley

    February 26 - Social worker visit with Cheryl Longley 

    March 14 - Social worker visit with Cheryl Longley 

    April 29 - Social worker visit by Laura Neal

    'It would be inappropriate for the Vale of Glamorgan Council to comment further until this independent review has concluded.'

    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.

    She said: 'I am satisfied you inflicted injuries upon Elsie in November 2015 which caused the fractures to her leg and in December 15 the large bruise to her forehead.

    Scully-Hicks was accused of hurting Elsie before but he had insisted that the baby gate (pictured) had just opened and that she had tumbled down the stairs

    Scully-Hicks was accused of hurting Elsie before but he had insisted that the baby gate (pictured) had just opened and that she had tumbled down the stairs

    'You had, and were aware that you had, a predisposition to injure your adoptive daughter.

    'You took no steps to prevent a recurrence of the earlier incidents when Elsie suffered injuries as a result of your actions.

    'It has been submitted on your behalf that a statutory mitigating factor is the lack of premeditation. In finding that you acted in anger I accept that represents a lack of premeditation.

    'However, the absence of premeditation is tempered by the fact that your anger towards Elsie did not represent an isolated occasion and you knew that your anger could lead to deliberately inflicted injury. No remorse has been shown.

    'You were living in comfortable social circumstances with the close support of professional agencies, your husband and wider family.

    'You have been assessed by two independent psychiatrists who found no psychiatric condition which would have affected your actions.'

    Cardiff Crown Court heard Scully-Hicks, originally from Delabole, Cornwall, branded her 'a psycho', 'the exorcist' and 'Satan dressed up in a Babygro' in text messages.

    Neighbours also heard the former lifeguard calling Elsie a 'little f****** brat' and a 'silly little c***'.

    The judge also referred to text messages the defendant had sent describing Elsie's meal times and bed time as 'your worst nightmare'.

    Mrs Justice Davies added that had a doctor spotted Elsie's double leg fracture in November 2015, the protocol at the hospital would have meant she would have been assessed by a consultant.

    She said: 'Tragically the opportunity was missed.'

    Matthew Scully-Hicks previously claimed Elsie had fallen down the stairs and hurt herself in the months before her death

    Matthew Scully-Hicks previously claimed Elsie had fallen down the stairs and hurt herself in the months before her death

    She told him: You are an intelligent man. You would have known you were struggling to cope with Elsie.

    'You knew that in November and December your frustration and anger towards Elsie had resulted in injuries to her. You told no one the truth of what had occurred nor the reason for it.

    'Regular visits were made by social workers and the health visitor. To no one, not even your husband, did you have the courage to speak of your difficulties.

    'You put your own self-interest before that of the young child you had been entrusted to protect.'

    Scully-Hicks had presented himself as a loving and doting father but he inflicted injury after injury on Elsie before he killed her

    Scully-Hicks had presented himself as a loving and doting father but he inflicted injury after injury on Elsie before he killed her

    Scully-Hicks, who sobbed when he was convicted, denied murdering her but was yesterday found guilty by a jury after a four week trial.

    A Child Practice Review has been commissioned 'into the tragic circumstances' of Elsie's death, a spokesman for the Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Safeguarding Children Board said.

    Elsie was formally adopted by the couple on May 12 last year and suffered fatal injuries at their home in Llandaff, Cardiff, on May 25.

    On the night of the attack, Scully-Hicks shook her and then threw her to the ground, leaving his daughter fatally injured.

    In a 999 call at 6.18pm, he claimed: 'I was just changing my daughter for bed and she went all floppy and limp.'

    Paramedics arrived at 6.26pm and Elsie was taken to the University Hospital of Wales, where she died four days later.

    Tests showed she had suffered three separate areas of bleeding on her brain, bleeding in both eyes, a skull fracture and three rib fractures.

    Consultant paediatrician Dr Stephen Rose said Elsie's injuries could be explained by her being 'shaken violently'.

    Dr Rose said her fractured skull would have been caused by a blow to her head, with Elsie thrown against a hard floor or her head knocked against a wall.

    Elsie's rib fractures were likely caused by Scully-Hicks gripping her, the court heard.

    The court was told Elsie was placed with Scully-Hicks and his husband in September 2015, aged 10 months.

    Paul Lewis QC, prosecuting, said Elsie was found unresponsive by paramedics after Scully-Hicks attacked her at his home.

    He said: 'The injuries that caused her death were inflicted upon her by the defendant shortly before he called emergency services that day.

    'His attack upon her that day was not the first time he had employed violence towards Elsie, nor was it the first time he had caused her serious injury.

    Two Social Services executives retired in the months after Elsie's tragic death

    Two top social services executives in the Welsh county in which Elsie was killed retired in the mouths after the toddler's tragic death.

    Now reports claim the team in Vale of Glamorgan missed several chances to save Elsie from her abusive adoptive father, Matthew Scully-Hicks.

    Hilary Southam, care leader at the Vale of Glamorgan social services, retired just three months after Elsie was murdered in May 2016.

    The 61-year-old has since worked for the council as an emergency duty social worker on a freelance basis. 

    When approached about Scully-Hicks's trial outside her Barry, South Wales, home she said: 'I'm retired. I don't want to talk about it.'

    Her former colleague, director of social services Phil Evans retired this summer, just before Scully-Hicks's murder trial began at Cardiff crown court. 

    Mr Evans's wife told reporters: 'He is no longer at the Vale of Glamorgan council so it’s not really his issue.' 

    'His actions on the late afternoon of May 25 were the tragic culmination of a course of violent conduct on his part towards a defenceless child - an infant that he should have loved and protected, but whom he instead assaulted, abused, and ultimately murdered.'

    A post mortem examination found Elsie suffered bleeding behind both eyes as well as rib fractures and a skull fracture which the pathologist said was 'as the result of an impact to the head.'

    Vale of Glamorgan director of social services Phil Evans retired this summer, just before Scully-Hicks's murder trial began

    Vale of Glamorgan director of social services Phil Evans retired this summer, just before Scully-Hicks's murder trial began

    Craig Scully-Hicks worked five days per week, with Matthew Scully-Hicks the primary carer for Elsie.

    Scully-Hicks insisted he never harmed Elsie but the jury rejected his account after hearing from 12 medical experts and six doctors who treated her.

    A Child Practice Review was launched by the Cardiff and Vale Regional Child Safeguarding Board and the probe could take up to a year to complete.

    They will discuss whether chances were missed with Elsie and whether any lessons can be learned to prevent similar cases in the future.

    A spokesman for the board said: 'Now that the criminal proceedings have concluded, the Regional Safeguarding Children Board will seek assurance that the independent child practice review, which has already been commissioned, into the tragic circumstances of the child's death, will be progressed.

    'It would therefore not be appropriate for the Board to comment further until the conclusion of the independent review.'

    Speaking outside court, Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Wales, of South Wales Police, said the circumstances of Elsie's murder were 'extremely rare'.

    He said: 'Our thoughts today are with little Elsie and those who knew and loved her.

    'Her untimely death at just 18 months old has had a devastating effect, first and foremost on her family, who remain uppermost in our thoughts.

    'Elsie's death has also impacted a wider community, including the many professionals involved in her care and the subsequent investigation.

    'I would like to thank all of them, including the many witnesses who assisted the prosecution.

    'This case represents an extremely rare and distressing set of circumstances.

    'We at South Wales Police continue to respect and value the role that adoption, and those involved, play in our society.'

    Timeline: How baby Elsie suffered a string of injuries at the hands of her killer father before her murder 

    November 17, 2014 – Elsie is born, taken from her drug addict mother and put in the care of Vale of Glamorgan Council

    September 10, 2015 – Elsie comes to live with the Scully-Hicks

    November 5, 2015 – Elsie fractures her right leg while alone with Scully-Hicks. He tells Craig she fell from a toy table

    November 9, 2015 – Elsie is seen by her GP for the injured leg. Scully-Hicks twists his story, telling the doctor that Elsie injured herself falling while using a baby walker

    November 12, 2015 – Elsie's leg is x-rayed but doctors miss a second fractured thigh bone that could only have been caused by 'significant trauma' 

    December 16, 2015 – Elsie suffers a bruise to her left forehead that lasts for eight weeks. Scully-Hicks tells his husband Elsie 'whacked' her head on a toy table

    December 17, 2015 – Adoption officials visit the Scully-Hicks

    December 21, 2015 – Scully-Hicks lies to health visitor Jodie Golten that a GP has examined the bruise  

    January 18, 2016 – A month after the first bruise to her forehead, Scully-Hicks sends his husband Craig a video of Elsie over WhatsApp

    It clearly shows a fresh bruise overlaying the one she received a month ago. Again, there is no record of Elsie being seen by a GP at this time. Craig did not appear to raise any concerns

    March 10, 2016 – Elsie is taken to hospital. Scully-Hicks claims she fell 'head over heels' down the stairs after opening a baby gate while he was sorting washing 

    April 16, 2016 – The Scully-Hicks move to a new house in Cardiff

    April 2016 – Elsie develops a squint in her left eye and is referred to an eye clinic. Craig takes her to see GP Dr Ruth Stone  

    May 12, 2016 – Elsie is formally adopted by the Scully-Hicks

    May 25, 2016 – Scully-Hicks calls 999 at 6.20pm and Elsie is rushed to hospital after becoming unresponsive

    Her injuries are similar to those caused by a car crash, the court heard. Medical staff find she has fractures to her leg, skull and to three ribs

    She also has bleeding to three parts of her brain as well as haemorrhages to both eyes

    May 27, 2016 – An MRI scan reveals bleeding on both sides of the brain, caused by being gripped around the ribs and shaken from back to front

    May 29, 2016 – Elsie dies at the University Hospital of Wales after suffering extensive brain damage

    Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5074359/Tragic-Elsie-s-gran-says-adoptive-father-HANGED.html

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