A former fitness instructor from the United Kingdom was convicted of murdering his adopted daughter by violently shaking her. A group of supporters are attempting to fundraise an appeal for the man's sentence. In an effort to draw donations, they released family photographs he had taken with the deceased infant.
On Nov. 6, Matthew Scully-Hicks was convicted of murdering his 18-month-old adopted daughter, Elsie, in May 2016. He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 18 years. Elsie died of internal bleeding and broken bones two weeks after Matthew and his estranged husband, Craig Scully-Hicks, officially adopted her.
Prosecutor Paul Lewis argued in court that Matthew had aggressively shaken 18-month-old Elsie on two occasions before killing her at his home in Cardiff, Wales. Elsie had lived with the same-sex couple for roughly a year as they finalized her adoption. She was twice taken to the hospital for bruises and a broken leg, which Matthew had attributed at the time to accidental falls, The Guardian reports.
Lewis cited text messages that Matthew had sent to acquaintances complaining about raising Elsie as evidence that he was frustrated with raising her. The baby had died from internal bleeding in her brain, a skull fracture and rib fractures.
"He shook her and he struck her head against some hard surface, or he used a hard object to hit her to the back of the head," Lewis said in court. "She was just 18 months old. She was defenseless and vulnerable."
Judge Philip Moor of the High Court of Wales wrote in his judgment of the case that Craig was unaware of the abuse because he frequently traveled while Matthew tended to Elsie, The Independent reports.
"He accepts that Matt hurt Elsie and she is dead because of it. ... He said he didn't know this 'monster,'" Moor wrote.
The judge added that all evidence indicated that Elsie never showed fear of Matthew.
On Dec. 12, a group dubbed the Scully-Hicks Innocence Project (SHIProject) released a series of photographs showing Matthew and Elsie appearing happy together in family pictures. Members of the group are soliciting donations to a crowdfunding effort to help the convicted murderer appeal his sentence, Cornwall Live reports.
"The project is founded by local friends and acquaintances of Matthew's family, who equally feel affected by the injustice that he and his family have been dealt," said Hannah Scarr, a childhood friend of Matthew.
"We (SHIProject) feel that there is a great amount of detail of the case and trial that has been misreported, left out completely or misconstrued to portray a monster," Scarr added. "In reality everyone who has ever met Matthew have only lovely things to say about him."
There is no evidence that anyone other than Matthew fatally injured Elsie.