'She was our shining light' - little Ellie Butler's grandparents describe their 'devastation' at her murder
Ellie Butler's maternal grandparents described their utter devastation at her death, saying: "She was our shining light."
Grandmother Linda Gray died on the first day of the murder trial and her husband Neal was understood to be too ill to give evidence.
The couple had cared for Ellie after her father Ben Butler was accused of shaking her as a baby, but they were forced to hand her back 11 months before her death.
In a joint statement written ahead of the trial, they described how they struggled to come to terms with the "shock and horror" of her death.
They said: "Our lives have changed so dramatically due to the impact and shock and horror of this event that we struggle every day to deal with the reality of the death of our dear granddaughter Ellie. She was our shining light.
"Ellie was a very beautiful, bubbly and intelligent little girl who always had a smile on her face and even at such a young age she was nobody's fool. She was our life and she gave so much pleasure to us and our family too, how we all miss her."
The couple went on: "Local people, some of whom we did not even know, came to express their sadness upon hearing of her death and we received over a hundred messages of sympathy. This gave us great comfort in our time of mourning. Ellie had many friends in school and the community all of whom were totally grief-stricken.
"We have difficulty facing people and people have difficulty facing us and visiting our home. It affects our everyday lives. It was such a great privilege and pleasure to have been Ellie's grandparents and to be able to have loved her in her short life. This goes for our family and friends too."
The couple did not directly refer to their daughter Jennie Gray or Butler.
However, they said: "We did not realise that some people could be so wicked in life."
They added: "Our beautiful granddaughter Ellie, we all miss her very, very, much, more than any words can express. Life will never be the same for us again."