May 19 2013 Latest news:
by Court Reporter
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Two cruel parents convicted of a decade-long campaign of abuse against their kids have each been jailed for seven years, after a Muswell Hill actress gave evidence against them.
The Nigerian couple, who claimed their kids were possessed by evil spirits, beat them with brooms, hoovers and wires and even gave their baby a morphine overdose just days after her first birthday.
The kids were finally rescued after their eldest daughter threw a heart-wrenching SOS note out of a window, Wood Green Crown Court heard.
The plight of the children was so bad that the actress, who met them at a church lunch, took them to the cinema “because she felt sorry for them”.
She gave evidence as a prosecution witness during the trial of the parents, both 40, who cannot be named to protect their six children.
But the parents claimed they were victims of a conspiracy - and even alleged the actress was involved in a witch-hunt against them and wanted to “steal” their children.
Their youngest child, who they nearly killed with morphine, had been allowed to stay in their home by a judge after the couple fought to keep it, despite the fact their five other children had to be rescued by Haringey Council’s social services.
Sentencing them each to seven years behind bars, Judge James Patrick described it as “shocking mistreatment” that they had tried to cover up with a “web of deception”.
He said: “No-one who sat through this trial could help but be moved by the fact that these intelligent, charming, fun, lovable children continue to love you despite what you put them through.”
The married couple denied the allegations, claiming they were victims of a racist witch-hunt, but were each found guilty of nine counts of cruelty to a person under 16.
They argued the children had been “brainwashed” into making the allegations by the police, social services and the actress, who they said “wanted to steal” them, the court heard.
Judge Patrick said today: “You alleged a conspiracy involving a well-known actress, who had done nothing but show your family generosity and kindness, a member of a housing charity, social workers and foster carers.
“Those who had taken the trouble to support you were repeatedly accused of dishonesty, lying, and conspiracy to rob you of your children when the reality was that both of you were lying – in fact they were simply seeking to give your children stability.”
The abuse came to the attention of police in April 2010 when their nine-year-old wrote an SOS note and threw it out of her bedroom window.
The heart-breaking plea read: “My mum is the worst mum ever because she can’t cope with five of us, her broken hand and being pregnant. She always leaves me out so I always starve and I am forced to work.
“If I don’t get enough housework done, I am beaten without mercy with the wooden end of a broom. I have scars all over me to prove it. I can’t stay here. I would like a new mum.”
It was found by a neighbour who called the police, and when officers attended the address they found the children living in messy conditions with “dirty” and “dishevelled” clothing.
The eldest said her mother had hit her with a cable, a broom, and a hoover and her father had dangled her by her feet down the stairwell of the house, tied her hands behind her back and her legs together “to get the devilish spirits out”, prosecutor Emma Smith said.
Her sister, who was seven at the time, had a stick-shaped bruise on her thigh and after a few months in care, she drew a series of pictures showing her dad beating her and her being left home alone, including a speech bubble saying ‘I’m hungry’.
The children were left home alone for hours, sometimes days, on end with the elder kids forced to look after the others.
They had even been forced to lie to a charity and Haringey social services that they were living alone with their mother in one room and had no idea who their dad was so they could claim benefits.
Even during the trial the eldest feared she had torn her family apart with her “devastating cry from the heart in the form of a letter which she threw from the window”, the judge noted.
There was a police investigation but no further action, and the five children remained in care until the parents once again came to police attention on June 28 last year.
“But for the events of June 28 you would have gotten away with your crimes because of a merciful decision not to prosecute you,” Judge Patrick said.
Having given birth to another daughter, who was also initially taken into care but then returned after they went to court to get custody back, her parents brought her to St Thomas’s Hospital just days after her first birthday.
Doctors believed she had been given morphine orally and without treatment she could have been brain-damaged or even died, but quick-thinking doctors managed to save the youngster.
Jurors rejected the parents’ conspiracy theories. When they are released they face deportation to Nigeria – despite pleas from their legal team that they have been “punished enough” by having their children taken into care.
As they left the court they wailed: “We are innocent, this is a miscarriage of justice.”
A Haringey Council spokesman said there had been “absolutely no failing” on their part, staff having “acted quickly and properly in taking action to safeguard the children”. They said the judge had not criticised the authority at all, adding: “The jury’s verdict, and sentencing by the judge, vindicates our actions.”