THE birth family of Elsie Scully-Hicks, whose adoptive father was sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder earlier this week, have said she would "still be alive today" had Vale of Glamorgan social services not removed her from their care.

Elsie Scully-Hicks was taken into care by Vale social services just a few days after being born in November 2014, before being placed with her adoptive parents in September the following year.

Eighteen-month-old Elsie was murdered by Matthew Scully-Hicks just two weeks after the formal adoption process had been completed.

Mr Scully-Hicks, 31, was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years in prison at Cardiff Crown Court on Tuesday, November 7.

Mrs Justice Davies, when sentencing Scully-Hicks, took into account a victim impact statement - which was not read in court - provided by Elsie's birth family.

In the statement, which can now be reported following an application by the Press Association, the biological family of Elsie – born Shayla O'Brien – said they were "numb with pain."

Speaking on behalf of the family, Elsie's birth grandmother Sian O'Brien said: "I accept that at the time of giving birth my daughter was living a chaotic lifestyle and was not in a position to care for Shayla and she was removed from the hospital five days after birth by social services.

"As a family, we continued to have contact with Shayla whilst she was in the care of the foster family."

Ms O'Brien said all of Elsie's family were "extremely attached to her and loved her very much".

She said: "In January 2015, I started proceedings in the family court to become the legal guardian for Shayla.

"I wanted to bring her up in a happy, healthy and warm family environment, that was all taken away from me when social services and the family court decided I would not be able to cope.

"We all continue to fight on even though every day we are numb with pain and hurt deep in the knowledge that Shayla was loved unconditionally by us all as a family and knowing that had she not been taken away from us, she would still be alive today."

Elsie was eventually put up for adoption in May 2015.

Ms O'Brien said the family hoped that one day the little girl would be reunited with them but were visited by social services in January 2017, who informed them of Elsie's death the previous year.

"In itself this was devastating news," continued Ms O'Brien, "but to then be informed that one of the parents who had adopted her had been charged with murder and was allegedly responsible for her death was completely incomprehensible," she added.

"A person who had been deemed by the authorities to be a fit and proper person to bring up my granddaughter was responsible for her death, and they took her from me telling me I would be unable to cope."

Passing sentence on Mr Scully-Hicks, Mrs Justice Davies said that he had acted in his own self-interest by hiding his "frustration and anger" from those around him.

"To no one, not even your husband, did you have the courage to speak of your difficulties. You put your own self-interest before that of the young child you had been entrusted to protect.

"To Craig and the professionals you continued to present as a concerned, caring and loving father.

"What people did not see or hear, because they were not in the house at the time, was the frustration and anger which you were demonstrating because of your inability to cope with your young adoptive daughter."

An independent child practice review is now underway to examine the "tragic circumstances" of Elsie's death, a spokesman for Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan regional safeguarding children board said.

A spokesperson for the Vale of Glamorgan Council said: “The Regional Safeguarding Children Board, as the relevant statutory body, has commissioned an independent Child Practice Review into the tragic death of Elsie Scully-Hicks and it would be inappropriate for the Vale of Glamorgan Council to comment further until this independent review has concluded.”