A FITNESS instructor has been convicted of murdering his 18-month-old adopted daughter by violently shaking her and striking her head.

Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, inflicted a catalogue of injuries – including bruises, a broken leg and a fall down a full flight of stairs – on Elsie in the eight months he had care of her.

She died four days after being violently shaken and sustaining a fractured skull just two weeks after being formally adopted by the defendant and his husband.

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Cardiff Crown Court heard Scully-Hicks, who broke in tears when the verdict was returned, struggled to cope with the toddler and branded her “a psycho”, “the exorcist” and “Satan dressed up in a Babygro” in text messages.

Neighbours heard the former lifeguard shouting abuse at Elsie and calling her abusive names when she cried.

Scully-Hicks insisted he never harmed Elsie and claimed she must have spontaneously suffered fatal injuries after he changed her for bed at home in Llandaff, Cardiff, on May 25 last year.

But following the trial lasting more than four weeks, during which 12 medical experts and six doctors gave evidence, jurors unanimously found him guilty of murder.

The jury returned their verdict on their fourth day of deliberating the case.

An independent Child Practice Review is now under way to examine the “tragic circumstances” of Elsie’s death, a spokesman for Cardiff Regional Safeguarding Children Board said.

Following the verdict, prosecutor Paul Lewis QC told the court: “Elsie was particularly vulnerable by reason of her age.

“There was a gross abuse of trust on the part of the defendant. We invite the court to bear in mind the nature and the extent of the injuries suffered.

“All the injuries suffered by Elsie in her short life while living with the defendant were deliberately inflicted by him.”

The court heard Elsie was fit and healthy before she was murdered by her adopted father on May 25 2016.

She attended a toddler gym class, played on swings at a local park and accompanied her father shopping.

Scully-Hicks will be sentenced today.

A statement from Elsie’s birth grandmother was passed to the judge to consider. The contents of the statement were not read to the court.