Sadistic foster mother guilty of 'horrific cruelty'
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'Sadistic' foster mother Eunice Spry (Pic: PA)
A foster mother was found guilty today of subjecting three young children to a "horrifying catalogue of cruel and sadistic treatment".
Eunice Spry, 62, routinely beat, abused and starved the youngsters in her care over a 19 year period.
The devout Jehovah's Witness forced sticks down their throats and made them eat their own vomit and rat excrement.
As punishment for misbehaving, she would beat them on the soles of their feet and force them to drink washing up liquid and bleach.
Spry, a pillar of her local community in Gloucestershire, staunchly denied all the claims made against her and insisted the only physical punishment she ever used was "a smack on the bottom".
But a jury at Bristol Crown Court convicted of a series of charges.
Restrictions on reporting the trial were lifted after the guilty verdicts were returned.
Spry was found guilty of 26 charges in total. They ranged from unlawful wounding, cruelty to a person under 16, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation.
Spry, wearing a light blue trouser suit, showed no emotion as the guilty verdicts were returned.
During the four-week trial the jury heard some harrowing evidence detailing how Spry had subjected the children to a regime of abuse.
The three victims, known as Victim A, B and C, all gave evidence describing how their daily routines were punctuated by random acts of bizarre and sadistic violence at the hands of their foster mother.
Kerry Barker, prosecuting, told how Victim A, now aged 21, was imprisoned in a wheelchair by the woman following a car crash.
Spry had tried to stop Victim A from trying to walk again following the crash so she could get more compensation money.
Victim B, also 21, told how her foster mother 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.
The offences took place in two of Spry's homes in Gloucestershire between 1986 and 2005.
Mr Barker, had told the jury: "On hearing the indictment the word that probably sticks in your mind is cruelty.
"That is what this case is about. It is a history of cruelty by Eunice Spry who was an adoptive mother over a long period of time."
The abuse was finally discovered after another Jehovah's Witness secretly confronted the wheelchair-bound Victim A about marks to her head caused when Spry rubbed sandpaper over her face.
Victim A finally plucked up the courage to report her foster mother to the police who quickly interviewed Victim B and C.
Mr Barker added: "The outcome of the interviews was a horrifying catalogue of cruel and sadistic treatment.
"Most of the acts were carried out as punishment; others were inexplicable acts of cruelty."
He said the children would be regularly punished for minor acts of misbehaviour.
Mr Barker explained: "They were made to eat lard and drink washing up liquid poured down their throats.
"If they were sick (she) would make them eat the vomit and they were made to eat rat excrement."
He said that Spry would regularly beat the children on the soles of the feet with a "variety of sticks".
They would be "punched kicked and strangled", and if they cried the sticks would be forced down their throats.
Mr Barker said Spry used unusual punishments such as making the children lean against the side of a wall.
If they moved, the soles of their feet would again be beaten with the sticks.
Full cans of food would be thrown directly in their faces and they would have their heads forcibly held under the water while in the bath.
Victim A told how when she was a young girl her foster mother had fixed a sign to the back of one her dress to cause embarrassment in public.
The message read: "This child is evil. Do not look at her or talk to her. She wets the bed and is an attention seeker."
Victim A was involved in a serious traffic accident in 2000. Doctors told the girl, who suffered horrific injuries, that she would be confined to a wheelchair for up to six months after the crash.
But medical experts who examined her soon found there was no physical reason why she could not walk.
Spry refused a series of tests to find out what was behind the girl's mysterious condition and deliberately hindered her recuperation in a cynical bid to maximise the compensation payout she could get from insurers.
In 2004, Child A fled from her foster mother and walked on the very same day.
She later confessed that Spry had forced her to remain in the wheelchair since 2000.
Mr Barker said on one occasion Spry had forced Child C to place his hand over an electric ring on a cooker causing blistering.
He added that Spry was able to conceal her alleged reign of abuse as the children were home taught and not sent to school.
She has also terrified the children so much with her ritualistic abuse that they were too frightened to alert the authorities.
Spry covered her tracks by forbidding them to be examined on their own by doctors or dentists.
She maintained her innocence throughout police interviews and during the subsequent trial.
Adrian Foster, chief Crown prosecutor for Gloucestershire, said: "This was one of the most serious cases of child abuse that we have had to deal with.
"The Crown Prosecution Service was able to provide advice on the case from a very early stage in the investigation process including the need for complex medical and psychological reports, before deciding on what charges were to be put to Mrs Spry.
"Through effective joint working with the police we were able to establish a strong case against her which graphically illustrated the abuse of her children over a wide period of time.
"We were also able to establish the confidence of the victims in the prosecution process, through early meetings with the reviewing lawyer and counsel, to allow them to give good evidence to the court of their experiences.
"The quality of that evidence is reflected in the findings of the jury today."
Mary Harley, the reviewing prosecutor, added: "It is an excellent example of the benefits in adopting a prosecution team approach at the very early stages of the investigation when victim A first made her complaint in December 2004.
"Continuity of the members of the team throughout the prosecution ensured the best evidence both from lay witnesses and many professional experts who were presented before the court at the trial."
Judge Simon Darwall-Smith adjourned the case for pre-sentence reports to be prepared.
Spry was remanded in custody until the sentencing hearing at Bristol Crown Court at a date to be fixed.
Copyright Press Association 2007.
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