British man jailed for life for murdering his six-year-old daughter

Ellie Butler's head injuries were compared to those of a road crash victim

Ellie Butler, trial, murder, Ben Butler, London, Old Bailey, Jennie Gray, jailed,

Undated family handout photo of Ellie Butler, aged five | Image: Family handout / PA Wire/Press Association Images

A man has been sentenced to life with a minimum of 23 years in Britain for murdering his six-year-old daughter in a fit of rage.

Ben Butler (36) killed his daughter Ellie just 11 months after winning her back in a high-profile custody battle.

He inflicted head injuries on the youngster while looking after her and her sibling at home in October 2013.

Butler was convicted of murder and child cruelty following a trial at the Old Bailey in London.

His partner, Jennie Gray (36) was jailed for 42 months for child cruelty and perverting the course of justice.

Butler mumbled angrily as the verdicts were returned and vowed to "fight forever", while Gray said: "Big mistake, big mistake, big mistake."

During mitigation the court heard Gray had only just been told her mother died on April 19th.

Apparently, her family wanted the news kept from her while the trial was ongoing.

The Old Bailey heard that after battering Ellie to death Butler put off dialling 999 for two hours and instead summoned Gray back from work in the City of London.

The pair then concocted an elaborate plot to destroy evidence and create the scene of an accidental fall before phoning the ambulance service.

In the chaotic call, former 'EastEnders' actress Gray screamed and shouted at the operator and carried out CPR, despite knowing her daughter was dead.

The couple even involved Ellie's younger sibling by sending the child into her room on the pretext of fetching her for cake, jurors were told.

The child can be heard on the 999 call saying Ellie "won't wake up."

'Self-absorbed, ill-tempered, domineering man'

The killing came months after the children were returned to their parents following accusations that Butler violently shook Ellie when she was seven weeks old.

Unemployed Butler, of Sutton, south London, had been found guilty of assault in 2007 but the conviction was quashed on appeal.

In November 2012, he was "exonerated" by a family court judge who declared a "happy ending" as she handed Ellie back.

Soon after Butler became frustrated at being a stay-at-home father while Gray, a graphic designer, went out to work, the trial heard.

The jury was shown a stream of expletive-ridden text messages which showed Butler as abusive and violent towards his partner and constantly on the brink of exploding at the children.

Ellie's severe head injuries were compared to those of a high-speed road crash victim.

Butler claimed they were suffered earlier when she was playing with their Jack Russell puppy and could have turned fatal when she fell off a stool emulating Peppa Pig on television.

Gray admitted attempting to cover up for her partner but said it was only to protect an "innocent man."

She denied "sacrificing" Ellie's well-being for the sake of her relationship, and putting Butler before the children.

Investigating officer Detective Inspector Dave Reid said: "Butler and Gray set about orchestrating a set of lies to blame everyone but themselves for Ellie's murder and the events leading up to it."

"They lied throughout the investigation and continued making outlandish accusations against a variety of people and organisations throughout their trial."

He added: "Whilst their convictions will bring little comfort to Ellie's beloved grandparents...I hope they will go some little way to assuring them justice has now been achieved."

Jailing Butler, Mr Justice Wilkie said: "You are a self-absorbed, ill-tempered, violent and domineering man who, I am satisfied, regarded your children and your partner as trophies, having no role other than to fit in with your infantile and sentimentalised fantasy of family life."

He told a sobbing Gray that she may have been "exceptionally naive and stupid" to believe Butler and take part in the cover-up.