• STV
  • MySTV

Elsie 'would be alive if social services hadn't taken her'

Matthew Scully-Hicks is guilty of Elsie's murder by shaking her and striking her head.

Matthew Scully-Hicks described Elsie as 'Satan dressed up in a Babygro'.
Matthew Scully-Hicks described Elsie as 'Satan dressed up in a Babygro'. PA/ South Wales Police

The birth family of 18-month-old Elsie Scully-Hicks who was murdered by her adoptive father has said she would "still be alive today", if she had not been taken from them.

Matthew Scully-Hicks was jailed for a minimum of 18 years on Tuesday after being found guilty of the toddler's murder by violently shaking her and striking her head, just two weeks after he formally adopted her.

On Monday the 31-year-old was found guilty of inflicting a catalogue of injuries - including bruises, a broken leg and a fall down a full flight of stairs - on his adoptive daughter Elsie in the eight months he had care for her.

Elsie died in May 2016, four days after suffering brain damage, a fractured skull and fractures to her ribs.

Mrs Justice 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 following the lifting of a restriction, the toddler's birth family said they were "numb with pain".

Elsie was named Shayla O'Brien by her birth family when she was born in November 2014.

Elsie Scully-Hicks was born Shayla O'Brien.
Elsie Scully-Hicks was born Shayla O'Brien. South Wales Police

Speaking on behalf of the family, Elsie's 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.

"We all continued to fight on even though every day we were 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.

"Despite this decision and Shayla being in foster care, we as a family were still able to have weekly contact with her and we saw her without fail at every opportunity," Ms O'Brien said.

"In August 2015, out of nowhere, we were told by social services that we had to go and see Shayla as soon as possible and say goodbye for the final time as a suitable adoptive family had been found for her.

"This was completely devastating for us all."

Ms O'Brien continued that the family hoped that they would one day be reunited with Elsie, but were visited by social services in January 2017 when they were informed the toddler had died in May 2016 after suffering bleeding in her brain and eyes, a fractured skull and fractured ribs.

"In itself this was devastating news but to then be informed that one of the parents who had adopted her had been charged with murder and was allegedly responsible for her death was completely incomprehensible," Ms O'Brien added.

"A person who had been deemed by the authorities to be a fit and proper person to bring up my granddaughter was responsible for her death, and they took her from me telling me I would be unable to cope."

Matthew Scully-Hicks stayed at home with Elsie while his husband worked.
Matthew Scully-Hicks stayed at home with Elsie while his husband worked. South Wales Police

During his trial, Scully-Hicks, who stayed at home with Elsie - who was renamed by her adoptive parents - while his husband worked denied that he found looking after her stressful or that he was unable to cope and insisted he never harmed her.

Yet Cardiff Crown Court was told that the 31-year-old branded his daughter "a psycho", "the exorcist" and "Satan dressed up in a Babygro" in text messages.

Giving evidence, neighbours of the family reported hearing the former lifeguard shouting "shut the f*** up" at Elsie and calling her a "little f****** brat" and a "silly little c***" when she cried.

When he dialed 999 on May 25, Scully-Hicks reported the toddler had collapsed and must have spontaneously suffered injuries after he changed her for bed at home in Llandaff, Cardiff.

  • In the 999 call Matthew Scully-Hicks made four days before Elsie's death he tells the call handler the toddler went "floppy and limp" when he was changing her for bed.

Yet when paramedics and police arrived at the property, they found Elsie not breathing, with no pulse, in the lounge.

Doctors discovered she had suffered from three separate areas of bleeding on her brain, retinal bleeding, a skull fracture, three rib fractures and a leg fracture.

The cardiac arrest caused further brain injury and Elsie died in the early hours of May 29.

Following the trial which lasted more than four weeks, jurors unanimously found Scully-Hicks guilty of murder after four days deliberating the case.

During the trial, 12 medical experts and six doctors who treated Elsie gave evidence and they discounted the defendant's version of events.

All the injuries suffered by the toddler allegedly took place when she was alone with Scully-Hicks.

Iwan Jenkins, head of the Complex Casework Unit for CPS Wales, said that while the CPS was pleased with the verdict, "ultimately there are no winners, there's no victory as such, it is a sad occasion...

"When the victim is so young and defenceless as this individual child was and that the perpetrator was someone who should have been looking after her, caring for her, making sure she avoided any injury, it deepens that sadness and the tragedy of what's happened in this case."

An independent Child Practice Review is now under way to examine the "tragic circumstances" of Elsie's death, a spokesman for Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Safeguarding Children Board said.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. At least 6 characters please. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
At least 6 characters please
ShowHide
This field is required. At least 6 characters please.
You have to be 16 or over to join
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
Type your full postcode and select your address This field is required. It doesn't look like you've entered a valid postcode. Can't find your address? Confirm the details you've given us are correct by clicking here

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, including our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Any issues contact us.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.