Foster mother jailed for ‘sadistic torture’

Date: 2007-04-20
Source: Times Online

by Simon de Bruxelles

A foster mother who subjected three children to years of torture was sentenced to 14 years in prison yesterday by a judge who said that he would like to lock her up indefinitely.

Eunice Spry, 62, a Jehovah’s Witness, was convicted last month of beating the children with metal poles, forcing sticks down their throats and making them eat vomit and dog faeces.

Judge Simon Darwall-Smith described the abuse as the worst that he had come across.

He told Spry: “It is difficult for anyone to understand how any human being could have contemplated doing what you did, let alone in the regular and premeditated way that you did.

“You were careful to carry out what can be described as sadistic torture without being found out. This is the worst case of its kind I have experienced in 40 years of dealing with criminal cases.

“If it were solely my decision you would be facing a sentence from which you would not be released.”

After a four-week trial at Bristol Crown Court, Spry was convicted last month of ten charges of child cruelty, thirteen of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and one of unlawful wounding.

She was also convicted of witness intimidation and perverting the course of justice. The court was told that she had tried to contact the children before the trial, and threatened them if they did not drop the charges. The offences covered a period of 20 years.

Judge Darwall-Smith criticised social services for failing to spot the abuse, which came to light only when one of the children escaped and told a friend. He said: “Anybody seeing them should have realised this was a family that needed looking into.” He ordered Spry to pay £80,000 costs, to be funded from the sale of one of her properties.

Her foster daughter Alloma Gilbert, now 21, who waived her right to anonymity, said that Spry had told the children that they were possessed by the Devil. She said: “I was told I was evil scum and any day Armageddon would come and I would burn because I was a sinner.”

Her most vivid memory was of the stick that Spry would force down her throat to stop her screaming. Miss Gilbert said: “It had a two-inch brown bloodstained end after years of forcing it down my throat. I learnt not to wriggle but just to endure the pain. She’d hold it there and carry on hitting. I was always black and blue.

“If I’d been naughty she’d use a metal crowbar on me, beating the soles of my feet so the bruises wouldn’t be seen and breaking my toes.

“If I lied, she poured washing-up liquid down my throat. My lips were constantly swollen because she’d punch me when I was so frightened I couldn’t answer her.”

The two girls and a boy, all now young adults, were placed with Spry by Gloucestershire social services. They did not attend school and were not allowed to socialise. Despite regular visit to Spry’s home in Tewkesbury, social services never discovered the abuse.

Gloucestershire police welcomed the sentence. Detective Constable Victoria Martell said: “I’ve never seen a defendant like Eunice Spry. She was cold throughout the trial.”

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