By Sarah Vine for the Daily Mail
Published: 20:52 EST, 7 November 2017 | Updated: 04:39 EST, 8 November 2017
Wickedness comes in all shapes and sizes. This week, it comes in the guise of a puckish 31-year-old ex-fitness instructor, Matthew Scully-Hicks, who beat his 18-month-old adopted daughter, Elsie, to death.
Following months of abuse, he finally killed the little girl by violently shaking her and banging her head on a hard surface.
Incredibly, just 13 days earlier he and his husband, Craig, had finalised the adoption papers. They were planning a party for Elsie to celebrate. Scully-Hicks had even taken her to Marks & Spencer earlier that afternoon to choose an outfit.
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
Little Elsie did not have the best start in life. Her mother was a drug user and she was taken into care by social services five days after her birth.
This new beginning ought to have been a happy time for her. In reality, it was an agonising start to months of unimaginable abuse.
Elsie, at the time of her death, exhibited injuries ‘similar to those caused by a car crash’. She had bleeding to three parts of her brain, haemorrhages behind both eyes, and fractures to her leg, skull and three of her ribs.
Prior to that, she had been treated for a severe fall and had recently developed a squint in her left eye. She had also suffered a cardiac arrest.
Yet despite repeated trips to the GP and hospital and visits from social services, her desperate condition was not picked up. One social worker even went so far as to comment that Elsie and her new father were making ‘good eye contact’.
This was the same father who was heard by neighbours screaming repeatedly, ‘Shut the f*** up’ and who, in increasingly frantic text messages to husband Craig, openly described the child as a ‘psycho’, a ‘pain in the ass’, and ‘satan dressed up in a baby grow’.
That in itself would make this a truly heartbreaking story. But when it transpires that, far from being alone in the world, Elsie had a loving family who not only had remained in contact throughout her time in foster care, but also desperately wanted to look after her themselves, it becomes unbearable.
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
Elsie’s biological grandmother tried to adopt her granddaughter, but was turned down by social services on the grounds that she ‘would struggle to cope’.
Sometimes, of course, this is a fair judgment. But in Elsie’s case it seems bitterly ironic. Because whatever impediments Elsie’s grandmother may have faced to looking after her daughter’s child, she would truly have had to be a monster to outdo Scully-Hicks.
This was a young man who clearly could not cope with the most basic toddler behaviour. The ‘nightmare’ he describes in his text messages — Elsie waking at regular intervals during the night, refusing to eat, crying at bedtime, becoming fractious in the evenings — are things that all children of that age do.
No one would deny it’s a challenge — especially if it’s your first child. Not for nothing do we talk of the ‘terrible twos’. But the idea that Elsie’s flesh and blood, her own grandmother, would have handled her any worse than this relative stranger is simply absurd.
But even that is not the worst of it. Because the real reason Elsie was taken from her birth family and given to the Scully-Hickses is the worst one of all: political correctness.
The court heard Elsie suffered a number of shocking injuries including a fractured skull and internal bleeding
According to a whistleblower, a social worker with 30 years’ experience who was part of the Child Protection team at Elsie’s local authority, the Scully-Hickses may not have been vigorously vetted or challenged about Elsie’s injuries because it seemed such an attractive idea to place the child with a gay couple.
Don’t get me wrong: I do not believe sexuality matters one jot when it comes to being a good parent. But in matters of adoption, the most important thing is being utterly scrupulous about putting the interests of the child first.
Social workers have, on many past occasions, failed to do this because they are encouraged to see their job not just as child protection, but also as righting social ‘wrongs’.
So it can be the case that children won’t be placed with a couple where the ethnic background is different, or tough questions won’t be asked about certain communities. It happened with the child sex grooming cases in Rotherham, where social workers were reluctant to conceive of Muslim men abusing white girls; and it happened in Haringey with Victoria Climbie where racial sensitivities were a factor.
Yesterday, Scully-Hicks began a life sentence for the murder of little Elsie. But he is not the only one who should have this horrible crime on their conscience.
Elsie’s other adoptive father, Craig Scully-Hicks, failed to spot signs of the situation unravelling. Social workers may have allowed themselves to be blinded by preconceptions.
Finally, there’s a system so mired in mistaken assumptions and weighed down by political correctness, it actually harms the very people it aims to protect.
Thank God for naughty Nigella
Nigella Lawson’s new BBC2 show At My Table may verge on self-parody (dressing gowns, fairy lights, finger-licking, comehither looks — the lot), but it is the perfect antidote to our priggish, prudish times.
Who cares whether the dishes are real or not (judging by her creamy skin and pin-up shape, she’s a much healthier eater than her recipes suggest).
Nigella Lawson’s new show may verge on self-parody but it is the perfect antidote to our priggish, prudish times
It’s so good to see a woman who manages to be sexy without being slutty, knows how to flirt without getting in a flap and is the all-round opposite of the joyless, pinched-faced, fingerwagging harridans who seem intent on curdling the mixture right now.
Aged 57, Nigella is as much a goddess now as she’s ever been.
Friends in Italy are in stitches about what one of them terms ‘Bunga Bunga English-style’.
In the land of Berlusconi, even your basic entry-level political sex scandal entails at the very least a week-long orgy, usually with prostitutes and a mafia boss or two thrown in.
That our Government should be teetering on the edge of collapse over a fleeting hand on a knee strikes them as both hilarious and typical of a nation whose public prudishness, not for the first time, seems completely at odds with private passions.
Given the tragic death of Labour politician Carl Sargeant, 48, who was a former minister in the Welsh government caught up in the ‘sex pest’ scandal, might it be possible to stop demonising those who call for due process and an innocent until proven guilty approach in these matters? It’s not ‘victim blaming’, it’s justice.
Stop these twits tweeting
Good on the Twitter employee who tried to remove Donald Trump from the social media platform before departing.
If I ran the company, I would not only instantly re-employ this individual but give him a bonus — then ask him to remove Lily Allen, J.K. Rowling, Madonna . . .
Only Harriet Harman could turn a conversation about sexism into an opportunity to tell an anti-Semitic joke on TV — and a particularly vile one, too.
There is often talk of ‘everyday sexism’ — so ingrained people don’t even notice they’re doing it. It’s fast becoming clear that the Labour Party is suffering from the xenophobic equivalent: everyday anti-Semitism.
I’m sure that we are all grateful to Bono (pictured with wife, Ali) for insisting so much of taxpayers’ money goes on foreign aid
Your Halo has dropped, Bono
I’m sure that we are all grateful to Bono (pictured with his wife, Ali) for insisting so much of taxpayers’ money goes on foreign aid.
The U2 rock star — who I’m told wears sunglasses to avoid being blinded by the glare from his halo — was the single most prominent advocate of sending 0.7 per cent of the United Kingdom’s GDP abroad.
Now it transpires he sends large sums of his own cash abroad — for tax avoidance purposes — I hope we can look forward to never hearing from him again on the subject.
Watching Blue Planet II this week, I was struck by the way that Sir David Attenborough manages to make grotesquely ugly bottom feeders who plumb hitherto hidden depths seem genuinely fascinating.
Mind you, that’s what the Mail’s parliamentary sketchwriter, Quentin Letts, does every day.
I’m as sorry as the next person that Aston Merrygold was thrown off Strictly.
But the idea that his elimination has anything to do with racism is about as absurd as suggesting that Rev Richard Coles was booted off because the judging panel has turned to Devil worship.
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