The grandfather of murdered Ellie Butler is “very angry” after it emerged the girl’s parents reportedly received almost £1.5m in legal aid over 15 years.
Ben Butler, jailed in June for a minimum of 23 years for killing the five-year-old, was apparently given part of the money for his custody fight against grandfather Neal Gray.
That exact amount has not been disclosed but Butler’s partner Jennie Gray reportedly received £223,266 for her legal team during the final four-month hearing.
Mr Gray claimed his own life savings had been wiped out in the court battle as he tried and ultimately failed to stop Ellie being returned to her parents.
Before her brutal death, 70-year-old Mr Gray and his late wife, Linda, spent £80,000 and took on extra work to cover their legal fees, but then ran out of money and were turned down for legal aid.
He believes the “ordeal” killed his wife.
He told the Daily Mail: “We spent our life savings and took two extra cleaning jobs to fight for Ellie. It was incredibly hard and all we wanted to do was look after our granddaughter.
“We were willing to do anything to get her back. We fought tooth and nail. But it wasn’t an even playing field, we ran out of money and ended up not being represented in the case.
“We were turned down for legal aid but because they were on benefits they were able to get it. I’m sure the ordeal killed my wife and now I don’t have her or Ellie.”
Ellie died in October 2013 after suffering horrific head injuries at the hands of Butler in their home in Sutton, South London.
Jennie Gray was jailed for 42 months in June after being found guilty of child cruelty having admitted perverting the course of justice.
Butler and Gray’s reportedly received legal aid grants totalling £1,449,899 including for petty criminal offences over a 15 year period, according to a Freedom of Information Act request to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) by the Daily Mail.
The sum is said to include £1,185,285 for “civil representation”, which includes cases in the Family Court.
An MoJ spokesman said: “The Government has taken action to reduce legal aid expenditure. It has fallen by over 20% since 2010.
“Anyone facing a Crown Court trial is eligible for legal aid, subject to a strict means test, but may be required to pay significant contributions – up to the entire cost of their defence.
“The Government has cut the fees paid to lawyers in criminal legal aid cases, such as these, to ensure legal aid represents better value for the taxpayer.”