3D Printed Replica

UK Prosecutor Uses 3D Printed Replica Skulls in Child Murder Trial

Ellie Butler

For the first time in British legal history, 3D printed replica have been used to illustrate the severe head injuries sustained by Ellie Butler in an ongoing court case.

Ellie Butler, a six-year-old British girl, was allegedly beaten to death in October 2013 by her father, Ben Butler, 36, from Sutton, south-west London.


Butler, 36, is on trial at the Old Bailey charged with her murder, while he and Jennie Gray are accused of child cruelty which relates to an untreated broken shoulder suffered by Ellie weeks before her death. In order to explain the complicated medical evidence in the case to jurors, two 3D printed models were produced using data from Ellie Butler’s CT scans and shown in court.

Why Were the Replica Skulls Made?

6 year old Ellie Butler’s head injuries were depicted in several 3D prints. (image: The Times)

It is the first time that 3D printing has been used to produce replica skulls to be used in a British court.

The reason the skulls were made is to determine whether Ellie’s injuries could have been the result of an accident and to provide a clearer image of the damage than on-screen alternatives.

Consultant forensic pathologist Nat Cary explained to the jury: “ made using the data that was collected in the CT scanner, digital x-ray data, used to print the 3D skull.”


Prosecutor Ed Brown QC described them as ‘electronic records transferred into a 3D object’, but added: ‘They are illustrative and explain the evidence rather than being the evidence itself.’

Butler’s barrister said: “I think some care should be taken. They are simply somebody’s best efforts at recreating what has been seen on the scans and not entirely representative of what has been seen on the scans. Too much reliance should not be placed on their absolute accuracy.”

Butler, formerly of Sutton, denies both murder and child cruelty. His partner, Gray, admits perverting the course of justice but denies child cruelty. The trial continues.

(Photograph: David Crump/Rex/Shutterstock, PA, SWNS)

Forensic police officers outside the family home in Sutton where Ellie was found fatally injured
Forensic police officers outside the family home in Sutton where Ellie was found fatally injured