Friday 9 December 2016

'He would foam at the mouth and his whole face changed' - ex-partner of murderer Ben Butler tells of beatings and 'strange behaviour'

Emily Pennink

Published 21/06/2016 | 12:01

Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben who has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter in 2013, 11 months after winning a high-profile custody battle
Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben who has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter in 2013, 11 months after winning a high-profile custody battle
Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben who has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter in 2013, 11 months after winning a high-profile custody battle
Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben who has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter in 2013, 11 months after winning a high-profile custody battle
Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben who has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter in 2013
Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben who has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter in 2013
File photo dated 23/05/16 of Jennie Gray who has been convicted of child cruelty at the Old Bailey following the death of her daughter, Ellie
Jennie Gray who has been convicted of child cruelty at the Old Bailey following the death of her daughter, Ellie
Undated family handout photo of six-year-old Ellie Butler.
Undated family handout photo of six-year-old Ellie Butler with her mother Jennie Gray. Ben Butler has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter Ellie in 2013, 11 months after winning a high-profile custody battle
Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben who has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter in 2013
Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben
Screen grab from an undated home video issued by the Metropolitan Police of Ellie Butler with her father Ben who has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering his six-year-old daughter in 2013

With his "beady black eyes" and foam at the mouth, child killer Ben Butler was a picture of "pure evil", according to his ex-girlfriend.

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Hannah Hillman told police Butler's face would contort with rage as he gave her "a good hiding".

He was so furious when they split up that he kicked and punched her in public in broad daylight.

After six-year-old Ellie Butler's death, Miss Hillman told investigators how he would "flip" between three different characters - normal, violent and "babyfied".

In her statement of January last year, she told how she went to live with Butler soon after their relationship began.

It was not long after they moved into a room above a pub that his "strange behaviour" surfaced.

Although she was frightened, she stayed with him because she thought she loved him, she said.

But then the violence "really started", she said.

"His persona completely changed," she continued.

"Every time he asked me the question and when I gave him an answer his eyes would almost turn black and small and beady ...

"Then he would hit me every answer I would give and that's the first time he gave me my first black eye."

She went on: "He always used to hit me in the face. I didn't think he could help it. He used to lose control so completely."

Afterwards, he would apologise saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I can't believe I have done this, it's not me", she said.

Even on Christmas Day, he "switched" for no reason, held her down and gave her a black eye, Miss Hillman said.

She described how Butler picked up a pole and gave her "a good hiding" when he returned from a job interview.

She said: "He was completely in a state of mind where I had never seen anybody in my life ...

"That look in someone's eyes. I don't think I will ever see it again. Pure evil. If he had gone on any longer I think he would have killed me."

Afterwards, he "completed regretted it", she added.

On August 20 2005, the couple had a drunken row in a Croydon nightclub and ended up in a car park.

Police arrived to find Butler had pushed his girlfriend to the ground and straddled her.

He later pleaded guilty to common assault.

Describing the attack, Miss Hillman said: "We would go out to a nightclub and he would say 'did you honestly think you would get away with that?' Then he would be in an underground car park strangulating me."

In the wake of these outbursts, he would become "very childlike, sitting on the floor and rocking", she said.

By November 10, the couple had broken up but they met once more in Morden town centre to discuss their relationship.

She described seeing him sitting at the bar of a pub with a "look in his eyes".

"It was almost like he would foam at the mouth and his whole face changed. It was very frightening because he was never a big man and I'm not a small girl," she said.

"He started beating me up in broad daylight. He was kicking me. I was on the floor (he was) punching me in the face. Two black eyes.

"My body was bruised and cut. An ambulance was called. That was pretty much the last time I saw him."

Butler accepted a police caution for assault occasioning actual bodily harm as Miss Hillman did not want to pursue it.

Although the abuse happened two years before Butler was accused of shaking little Ellie when she was a baby, Miss Hillman was never called to give evidence.

Prosecutor Ed Brown QC read out the extracts of her recent witness statement in court in the absence of the jury.

He argued jurors should know what she had to say about Butler's volatile temper because it chimed with his later treatment of Jennie Gray.

Although Mr Justice Wilkie ruled out her evidence, jurors in the Old Bailey trial were told that Butler had admitted two assaults against her in 2005.

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