Two decades of abuse went unseen

Date: 2007-03-20
Source: BBC News

The children in the care of Eunice Spry face a lifetime of counselling, after suffering years of physical and mental abuse at her hands.

The abuse was not spotted by health professionals over a period of 20 years.

At her trial the court was told that Spry, 62, was always present at doctors' visits and perhaps more crucially, educated the children at home so no one would see their injuries.

She portrayed herself as a loving and caring mother and was described as a devout Jehovah's Witness.

When one of the victims finally spoke out about their experiences to a member of their church, the authorities were alerted and Spry was arrested.

Police videos shown in court revealed the squalor the children were brought up in.

But it was the discovery of sticks that backed up the claims of abuse by her adopted children.

Starved and beaten

They had been pushed down their throats as a form of punishment.

Doctors found scarring to their throats that would prove their claims.

One of the children, described in court as Victim A, was seen at church with a note pinned to her back saying: "This child is evil. She wets the bed and is an attention seeker."

Two other children were starved and locked in a room naked.

Others were made to eat their own vomit for apparently being greedy.

They were hit and also beaten on the soles of their feet.

A picture of Victim A showed what looked like a rash was the result of Eunice Spry rubbing her skin with sandpaper.

When Victim A was injured in a car crash she should have been walking within six months but Spry kept her in a wheelchair to claim more compensation.

In a statement, Victim A said: "I lived in fear of violence and cruelty at her hand, something I accepted as being part of life."

'Chilling' reaction

The abuse of Victim C, who Spry described in court as a "difficult child" said.

"My foster mother never showed me any love or encouragement, only negativity or abuse," he said.

"She locked me in a bedroom once with my sister for about a month. I can't even remember what I had supposedly done wrong."

Eunice Spry denied all the charges and said she had loved the children.

Piles of games and toys in the house suggested she did care for them.

In her defence she claimed the children had made up the allegations, getting the ideas from a book about child abuse.

Kerry Barker said it was a horrifying catalogue of sadistic abuse

Police described Spry as intelligent and clever who had showed no emotion when she was questioned.

Det Con Victoria Martell said: "Most mothers who'd been accused of such things would have shown something.

"She didn't and it was quite chilling."

The case relied heavily on evidence supplied by forensic scientists.

Kerry Barker, prosecuting barrister, said: "Had it not been for the commitment of the Crown Prosecution Service in allowing the money to be spent on those skills, the victims' allegations would not have been supported."

The chairman of the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board, Jo Grills, said lessons would be learned from the case.

"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 inquiry, 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."


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