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Foster mother guilty of 'sadistic' abuse
By Richard Savill
Last Updated: 7:51pm GMT 20/03/2007
A foster mother was yesterday convicted of subjecting three children in her care to a catalogue of horrifying and sadistic physical and mental abuse spanning 20 years.
Spry routinely abused children
Eunice Spry, 62, a Jehovahs Witness, beat the children with sticks and metal bars, forced them to drink bleach, eat their own vomit and rat excrement, Bristol Crown Court heard.
"Most of the acts were carried out as punishment; others were inexplicable acts of cruelty, said Kerry Barker, prosecuting.
Spry was able to conceal her abuse as the children were home taught and not sent to school. She also terrified the children so much with her abuse that they were too frightened to alert the authorities.
Spry covered her tracks by forbidding them to be examined on their own by doctors or dentists, the court heard.
The Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board said Spry was someone who other parents trusted with their children. She deliberately set out to deceive those parents and all of the agencies involved over a 20-year period.
During her evidence, Spry denied beating the children but added as a last resort I would smack a childs bottom.
She was convicted of 26 charges including child cruelty, unlawful wounding, actual bodily harm, perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation.
Judge Simon Darwall-Smith adjourned sentence until next month.
During the four-week trial, which could not be reported until the verdicts due to legal restrictions, the jury heard a harrowing account of how Spry had subjected the children to a regime of abuse.
The three victims, known as Victim A, B and C, said their daily routines were punctuated by random acts of bizarre and sadistic violence at the hands of their foster mother.
The prosecutor said Victim A, now aged 21, was imprisoned in a wheelchair by the woman following a car crash. Spry had tried to stop Victim A from trying to walk again following the crash so she could get more compensation money, Mr Barker added.
Victim B, also 21, said her foster mother believed the three children were possessed by the devil. She said: We had no friends. We were told not to speak to anyone.
Victim C, now 18, said his foster mother held his hand down on a hot electric hob until it was left looking like a gooey mess. He said he had been force-fed so much washing up liquid by Spry that he could now differentiate between the brands on taste alone.
Victim C told the court: One summer, when I was seven or eight we were starved over the course of a month.
"We were kept locked in a room with no clothes on and had very little to eat.
The offences took place in two of Sprys homes in Gloucestershire between 1986 and 2005. The abuse was finally discovered after another Jehovahs Witness secretly confronted the wheelchair-bound Victim A about marks to her head caused when Spry rubbed sandpaper over her face.
Victim A plucked up the courage to report her foster mother to the police who interviewed Victims B and C.
Mr Barker added: The outcome of the interviews was a horrifying catalogue of cruel and sadistic treatment.
He said Spry would regularly beat the children on the soles of the feet with a variety of sticks. They would be punched kicked and strangled, and if they cried the sticks would be forced down their throats.
Mr Barker said Spry used unusual punishments such as making the children lean against the side of a wall. If they moved, the soles of their feet would again be beaten with the sticks. Full cans of food would be thrown directly in their faces and they would have their heads forcibly held under the water while in the bath.
Victim A was involved in a serious traffic accident in 2000. Doctors told the girl, who suffered horrific injuries, that she would be confined to a wheelchair for up to six months after the crash. But medical specialists who examined her soon found there was no physical reason why she could not walk. Spry refused a series of tests to find out what was behind the girls mysterious condition and deliberately hindered her recuperation in a cynical bid to maximise the compensation payout she could get from insurers, the court heard.
In 2004, Child A fled from her foster mother and walked on the very same day. She later confessed that Spry had forced her to remain in the wheelchair since 2000.
The Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board said: Although these children were seen by many different professionals, few were a consistent presence.
"Information was not shared so that it was impossible for anyone to have a clear picture. As a result of the Victoria Climbie enquiry, one of the significant safeguards now in place is the requirement for agencies to work far more closely together and for information to be shared.
"This case underlines the responsibility we all have to remain alert to people who deliberately deceive others about their real motive for working with children. Safeguarding children is everyones business.