In 2015 the Vale of Glamorgan Council allowed baby girl Elsie to be adopted by a gay couple, one of whom – Matthew Scully Hicks – murdered her.

An independent “child practice review” has been published today into the death of an 18 month old baby  – Elsie – who was murdered by her gay adoptive father Matthew Scully-Hicks  in 2016.

It was established at the trial of Scully-Hicks that baby Elsie had been assaulted and abused over a period of 7 months by her adoptive father and had suffered  skull fractures, fractures to her legs, broken ribs, a brain bleed and bruising to her head . The trial heard she had died after being violently shaken.

Elsie died just two weeks after having been formally adopted by  Scully-Hicks and his “husband” Craig.  Matthew Scully-Hicks was jailed for her murder .Craig Scully-Hicks was exonerated .

Today the independent child practice review into Elsie’s death says there were “missed opportunities” in Elsie’s care .

Matthew Scully-Hicks – a 32-year-old fitness instructor  – had sailed through the allegedly-rigorous  adoption process .  Politically-correct “professionals” viewed his care of Elsie through what the report calls “a positive lens” and  considered it to be a “very successful” adoption.

The report says  those same “professionals” who assessed Elsie’s injuries and care whilst she was still alive,  lacked “professional curiosity” and too-readily accepted the glib explanations for Elsie’s injuries given by Scully-Hicks.

The “professionals” didn’t discover that there was a second fracture to Elsie’s leg  until she was already dead and they were carrying out a post-mortem. The report said: “If the original examination of the x-ray had identified both fractures, safeguarding concerns would undoubtedly have been raised and child protection procedures instigated.” – but the Xray wasn’t examined thoroughly enough – and the second fracture wasn’t noticed.

Suzanne Griffiths, director for the National Adoption Service for Wales, said: “There is clearly a need to carefully consider the detail of the review and its recommendations so that policy and practice can be strengthened.” She said her service would continue to work with “the adoption collaboratives across Wales, voluntary adoption agencies and Welsh Government” to strengthen safeguarding and adoption practice. She said there would now be:-

  • clearer guidance during pre-placement meetings, 
  • more detailed recording of visits
  • discussion and sharing of safeguarding concerns.

Ms Griffiths doesn’t explain why these elements were not already part of the standard procedures of the National Adoption Service for Wales.

Also in the line of fire from the report is the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board – which runs all NHS services in Penarth and Cardiff

Ruth Walker of the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board apologised to “Elsie’s birth and adoptive families” – which appeared to suggest she was including in them Elsie’s killer. 


The Cardiff and Vale Board says that since the death of little Elsie “a number of changes have been made”. 

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s executive nurse director, Ruth Walker said “I would like to apologise to members of Elsie’s birth and adoptive families and welcome this report to support our learning not only in health but from the multi-agency perspective. The report highlights key learning points and we have recognised these and made changes to current practice in response.”

From now on all children under 2 years of age who arrive for treatment at local Accident and Emergency Units (A&E Units)  :-

  • will be included at the weekly formal safeguarding review.
  • All children referred by a General Practitioner with a suspected bone fracture will be reviewed in A&E by a paediatric consultant.
  • All X-rays of children taken in the trauma clinic are now reported by a specialist paediatric radiologist.
  • Local authority health visitors must share all safeguarding information regarding looked after children with their lead paediatrician.

Lance Carver Director of Social Services for the Vale of Glamorgan Council struggled to answer when asked why it had taken 6 months to inform Elsie’s real parents of her death.No one on his staff has been disciplined .

The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Director of Social Services, Lance Carver, said that the council “is committed to learning lessons” from the death of Elsie but said the review had found that “the care, planning and adoption assessment processes were followed correctly and were robust”.

Mr Carver is also co-chair, with Claire Marchant,  of the Cardiff and Vale Regional Safeguarding Board . In a joint statement they said :- “Ultimately, this tragedy is the result of the actions of the individual convicted of Elsie’s murder, but key learning points have been outlined by the independent review and are being acted upon. The Child Practice Review is an opportunity to learn from the events leading up to Elsie’s tragic death. This is not about revisiting the criminal trial.”

Mr Carver and Ms Marchant say ” From what we have learnt through this review, we can improve future practice, and ensure the effectiveness of our services in protecting children. Changes have already been made in the organisations involved in Elsie’s care and steps are now being taken to implement the further recommendations made by the independent review. It is imperative that we learn from what happened to her’

Independent chair of the Child Practice Review , Wendy Rose, who published today’s report said: “For the vast majority of children placed for adoption, the outcome is positive and they go on to lead healthy and well-nurtured lives with motivated and committed parents. There was no indication it would be any different for this child. In the tragic circumstances of this child’s death, it is imperative that we learn from what happened to her. We found that some systems and practices can be strengthened so that there can be confidence in the quality and standard of services offered to the children placed for adoption and their families.”

However after the original murder trial, one lawyer told a PDN source: “In cases like this what emerges is a politically-correct culture in which  people tick the boxes but don’t join the dots. What seems to have been called for in this case was the application of some basic common-sense.”    It remains to be seen whether common sense has now percolated into the adoption system.


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  1. whatsoccurin says:

    Great item-very sad story, and what stands out is, if professionals lack “professional curiosity” what are they actually there for? Social workers in Colcot,Gibbonsdown,Ely,Llanrumney and other areas deal with this type of situation on a daily basis and a “given” is that unexplained injuries on a young child are referred to a specialist paediatrician in hospital. Difference is that those children are living with “birth parents” in underprivileged areas.Adoption workers seemed smitten by the adopters and my personal experience of adoption social workers, was that they wanted “out” of front line social work preferring the easier “tick box” adoption work-they should have no role in safeguarding.In summary the term “lack of personal curiosity” should be replaced by “gross incompetence”

  2. Dave says:


  3. Frank Evans says:

    Two father’s are maybe not the best children.
    The poor child wasn’t a fashion item.

  4. Chris David says:

    “the care, planning and adoption assessment processes were followed correctly and were robust”. Absolute cover my butt rubbish, The Lawyer who made the comment re PC boxes and dots is right. Mr Evans also makes a good point. Did you see the TV interview? The mealy mouthed women with the green top was just a buzzword bottom coverer. Heads should roll.

    • whatsoccurin says:

      Agree-the Child Protection process is very similar to “my day”-child has unexplained injury-speak to parent/carer-line up paediatric assessment at hospital and child may need to stay in for further tests until Case conference ,but if your manager says, no need to go with this, Adoption worker has it covered and carer has taken medical advice-it takes a very assertive social worker to say “that is not good enough” we need to follow procedure. Lots of different staff involved and the increase of safeguarding empires seems to have confused matters and increased risk to children. As you say today’s report was just designed to avoid individual responsibility.

  5. I have friends who used to be foster carer. The tick box social workers were a real problem as common sense was alien to them. They also tended to be exceptionally vindictive if they didn’t get their own way.

  6. Ralph says:

    In diffrent circumstances I presume the headline would scream
    “Report out on death of baby girl adopted by a heterosexual couple”.

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