Foster mum jailed after decades of cruelty

Date: 2007-04-19
Source: Times Online

David Byers and PA News

A foster mother who forced sticks down the throats of her three children and made them eat their own vomit, washing up liquid and bleach was jailed for 14 years today after two decades of cruelty.

Eunice Spry, from Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, was convicted at Bristol Crown Court of what a judge described as a "horrifying catalogue of cruel and sadistic treatment" over a 19-year period.

The 62-year-old Jehovah's Witness was last month convicted by a jury on 26 charges ranging from unlawful wounding, cruelty to a person aged under 16, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation.

Sentencing her today, Judge Simon Darwall-Smith said that the case had been the worst incident of cruelty he had seen in 40 years working in the legal profession.

"Frankly, it’s difficult for anyone to understand how any human being could have even contemplated what you did, let alone with the regularity and premeditation you employed," he told her.

Spry looked on impassively as she was sentenced to the prison term and ordered to pay costs of £80,000, which the judge said would inevitably mean she would have to sell at least one of her two properties in Gloucestershire. She was also banned from working with, or training, children for life.

During her four-week trial, the jury heard harrowing evidence of how she had subjected three children, known as in court as Victims A, B and C, to a regime of abuse in two of her homes in Gloucestershire between 1986 and 2005.

Victim A had told the court how she was confined to a wheelchair by Spry for over three years in a cynical bid to maximise the payout she could get from insurers after being injured in a car crash in 2000. The woman, now aged 21, eventually fled from her foster mother and walked on the very same day.

Victim B, also 21, told how Spry would pull her hair and shove her face in her pet dog’s faeces as punishment.

Victim C, now 18, described how 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.

They were made to eat lard and, if they were sick, would be forced to eat what they had thrown up, the children said.

Spry would also regularly beat the children on the soles of the feet with a "variety of sticks", the court heard. They would be "punched kicked and strangled", and if they cried the sticks would be forced down their throats, they added.

The abuse was finally discovered after another Jehovah’s Witness secretly confronted Victim A about marks to her head caused when Spry rubbed sandpaper over her face. She plucked up the courage to report her foster mother to the police who quickly interviewed Victim B and C.

Before that, the court heard that Spry had been able to conceal her reign of abuse as the children were home-taught and not sent to school. She also covered her tracks by forbidding them to be examined on their own by doctors or dentists.

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