Matthew Scully-Hicks has been jailed for life for murdering a baby girl only two weeks after he and his husband formally adopted her. On Monday, November 6, Scully-Hicks was convicted of murdering Elsie at the home in Llandaff, Cardiff, he shared with husband Craig, 36.
On Tuesday, November 7, the judge, Mrs. Justice Nicola Davies, sentenced him to serve a minimum of 18 years behind bars.
He is believed to be the first same-sex parent to be convicted of murdering an adopted child.
'Gross Abuse of Trust'
"In deliberately inflicting serious injuries upon your 18-month-old adoptive daughter you abused the trust which had been placed in you. It was a gross abuse of that trust," said the judge.
"It was an abuse of responsibility which had been placed upon you as her adoptive father to protect and care for this young, vulnerable and defenseless child. Your actions in killing Elsie have devastated three families: the birth family of Elsie, the family you had sought to build with Craig Scully-Hicks and your own birth family. Your parents have sat through every day of this difficult trial with stoic dignity," added Mrs. Justice Davies.
Scully-Hicks, a fitness instructor who was originally from Cornwall, inflicted a series of injuries on the child over the seven months she lived with the couple, and in May 2016, shook Elsie so hard that she suffered head injuries from which she died in hospital four days later.
"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," said prosecutor Paul Lewis QC.
Scully-Hicks, 31, sent text messages to friends in which he called Elsie "a psycho" and "Satan dressed up in a babygrow."
Elsie suffered a fractured skull, bruises and a broken leg and is thought to have been thrown down the stairs on one occasion.
Adoptions by Same-Sex Couples
One in 10 adoptions in England in 2016 were to same-sex couples, the highest proportion since gay and lesbian couples were first allowed to adopt in 2002.
Matthew Scully-Hicks' case has nothing to do with his sexual orientation. This is about an individual who chose to kill a defenceless baby.— Hadley Stewart (@wordsbyhadley) 6 November 2017
There were 20 same-sex adoptions in Wales that year, compared with 450 in England, according to New Family Social, a UK network for LGBT adoptive and foster families.
"Our thoughts are with Elsie's family at this difficult time. While the vast majority of adoptions in the UK are successful, it only takes one tragic case to remind us how vulnerable children and young people are. Any adoptive parent who is struggling to look after their child should contact their social worker as soon as possible for support and advice," a New Family Social spokesperson told Sputnik.
Major Case Review
Cardiff and Vale Regional Child Safeguarding Board is now to conduct a major review of the adoption process in Elsie's case.
Social workers will be asked to explain how they failed to notice the injuries Scully-Hicks was inflicting on the child in the months before her death.
"Her untimely death at just 18 months old has had a devastating effect, first and foremost on her family who remain utmost in our thoughts. Elsie's death has also impacted a wider community, including the many professionals involved in her care and subsequent investigation," said Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Wales of South Wales Police.
"This case represents an extremely rare and distressing set of circumstances and we at South Wales Police continue to respect and value the role that adoption and those involved play in our society," said Det. Chief Insp. Wales.
David Niven, who is chairman of two safeguarding children boards in England, and former head of the British Association of Social Workers, said Scully-Hicks was a "rogue" adoptive parent and the case should not be used to criticize the wider system.
"The tragedy in this is that we do not want to in any way deter people from the adoption process which is such a necessary and helpful process for so many children," Mr. Niven told the BBC.
"Occasionally rogue things happen and in this particular case it's not as if this family were being investigated as a risk family. They were investigated as a possible loving, caring home and that's the tragedy of it," he added.
In October, Sherin Matthews, an Indian child who was being fostered by a US couple, was found dead in mysterious circumstances.