An evil couple forced their children to eat soap, locked them up in cupboards and plunged them into boiling hot showers and baths, a court has heard.
Andrew Hadwin and Cheryl Pickles, from Bowburn, Durham, subjected vulnerable children to multiple forms of abuse, ‘robbing them of their childhood, and leaving them with psychological wounds’.
Teesside Crown Court was told the pair would ban them from eating, leaving their victims to scavenge for scraps.
On one occasion the children were found at 4am walking along to a supermarket four miles away to find food.
They would order takeaways and make the children watch them consume all the food while standing in stress positions for long periods of time.
An investigation into Hadwin and Pickles was launched in 2018 after one of their victims disclosed the prolonged abuse to a trusted adult.
Police interviewed more than 150 witnesses over four years, resulting in the pair being charged with multiple offences of child neglect and sexual activity with a child, and one count of perverting the course of justice.
Hadwin was also charged with three counts of rape in relation to non-recent abuse of another child which happened when she was young.
Both denied all charges, resulting in a seven-week trial.
Detective constable Kat Pudney, of Durham Constabulary’s Safeguarding Unit, said: ‘This was an extremely complex and distressing investigation for all involved, the likes of which I have never encountered during my time as a police officer.
‘Hadwin and Pickles subjected several vulnerable children to multiple forms of abuse, robbing them of their childhood, and undoubtedly leaving them with psychological wounds which they may never truly recover from.
‘I want to highlight how incredibly brave these children have been throughout this lengthy investigation.
‘Their strength to stand up to their abusers must be commended.
‘One of Hadwin’s victims is a young woman. She has shown incredible bravery in reliving her ordeal many years later.
The court heard from medical experts who described how the children regularly suffered injuries.
One of them was left with life-limiting injuries as a result of all the couple’s abuse.
Jurors were told how the couple wrote letters claiming to be from their victims, apologising for lying and making false allegations of sexual assault.
But a handwriting expert confirmed the writing was not that of a child, and that the letter had been written in a notebook found at the couple’s home.
It took the jury three days to find Hadwin guilty of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one count of perverting the course of justice.
He was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.
Meanwhile, Pickles was found guilty of five counts of child cruelty and one of perverting the course of justice, but was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.
They will be sentenced on April 28 at Teesside Crown Court. Until then, they have been remanded in custody.
DC Pudney added: ‘Hadwin and Pickles have lied to police, and have attempted to blame others throughout this investigation, in an attempt to divert the attention away from themselves.
‘I am delighted that the jury have returned these verdicts, ultimately protecting further children from falling victim to their manipulative and abhorrent behaviour.
‘I hope this result will allow the children to close this chapter of their lives and start their healing journey.’
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