Matthew Scully-Hicks has been found guilty of murdering his 18-month-old baby girl, Elsie, just two weeks after formally adopting her
Matthew Scully-Hicks has been found guilty of murdering his 18-month-old baby girl, Elsie, just two weeks after formally adopting her South Wales Police

A fitness instructor has been found guilty of murdering his 18-month-old baby girl just two weeks after formally adopting the child.

Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, had denied shaking Elsie and throwing her to the floor at his Cardiff home on 25 May last year.

The toddler died four days after being taken to the University Hospital of Wales. Her injuries included a bleed on the brain, a skull fracture, retinal bleeding in both of her eyes and damaged ribs.

Pathologist Dr Stephen Leadbetter told Cardiff Crown Court Elsie's injuries were consistent with being "shaken violently".

The child went to live with Scully-Hicks and his husband, Craig, in September 2015, eight months before she died. Elsie was formally adopted by the couple on 12 May last year.

Scully-Hicks, who cried when he was convicted, was found guilty by a jury who delivered a unanimous verdict after a four-week trial. The jury retired to consider the case last Wednesday but returned a verdict earlier today (6 November).

Social services in Cardiff face a probe over whether Elsie's death could have been prevented. In the months leading up to the toddler's death Scully-Hicks told his husband and a health visitor that earlier head injuries and a leg fracture found on the child were caused by falls around the house.

On the day Elsie died, Scully-Hicks told the court he had changed Elsie's nappy in the living room, and left the room before returning minutes later to find her unresponsive on the floor.

The former fitness instructor, who had taken on the role of stay-at-home dad, said: "I got closer and called her, there was no response. I got down and gave her a gentle tap and there was no response at all so I picked up the phone and called for an ambulance."

Satan in a Babygro

Scully-Hicks said he carried out CPR until a police officer arrived and took over. The toddler was rushed to hospital, where she died on 29 May after her ventilator was switched off, following a decision by her doctors that she would not survive her traumatic head injuries.

Earlier on the day the toddler received her fatal injuries, Scully-Hicks took Elsie shopping for a new outfit to wear at a party to celebrate her adoption with family and friends.

During the trial, the jury heard Scully-Hicks had sent his husband, Craig, a string of text messages detailing how he was "struggling to cope" with Elsie, calling her "Satan dressed up in a Babygro."

Part of one text read: "I'm going through hell with Elsie. Mealtimes and bedtimes are like my worst nightmare at the minute. She has been up there screaming for 10 minutes non-stop."

In part of another text Scully-Hicks wrote: "I left her to cry. I can't go up there every time!!! She has to learn."

The court heard that neighbour Susan Bevan heard the stay-at-home dad shout at the baby through the walls: "Shut up, shut up, shut the f*** up."

Matthew Scully-Hicks' husband, Craig, told the jury he had not suspected anything was wrong in the family home, and had he done so would have intervened.

The review into Elsie's death is being launched by the Cardiff and Vale Regional Child Safeguarding Board and could take up to year to complete.