Couple facing jail time for starving children to death and forging victim letters

Couple facing jail time for starving children to death and forging victim letters

Multiple counts of child abuse have been brought against a couple who tormented children by starving them, feeding them soap, and forcing them into scalding showers.

Cheryl Pickles, 35, and Andrew Hadwin, 39, of Bowburn, County Durham, appeared at Teesside Crown Court, where a jury found Hadwin guilty of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one count of perverting the course of justice. Pickles was found guilty of five counts of child cruelty and one of perverting the course of justice.
Cheryl Pickles, 35, and Andrew Hadwin, 39, starved the children to the point that they were so hungry that they traveled four miles at 4 a.m. to rummage in store trash bins.

Eventually, when the children disclosed the abuse to a trustworthy adult who reported it to the authorities, Hadwin and Pickles panicked and faked letters purporting to be from the children.

The letters, which were penned in a childlike scrawl, stated, “We are sorry, we lied,” and went on to explain that they had fabricated the accusations against the two individuals.

Cheryl Pickles, age 35, and Andrew Hadwin, age 39, both of Bowburn, County Durham, came before the Teesside Crown Court, where a jury found Hadwin guilty of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one act of perverting the course of justice. Pickles was convicted of five counts of child maltreatment and one count of obstructing justice.

After a lengthy trial, a jury at Teesside Crown Court convicted Hadwin and Pickles, of Bowburn, County Durham, of a prolonged campaign of child abuse. A handwriting expert dismissed the documents as forgeries.

During the hearings, jurors were informed of the pair’s horrifying actions, including dangling a scared youngster from a highway overpass.

They are now scheduled to be sentenced in April and have been cautioned to anticipate significant prison terms.

In 2018, one of the children courageously exposed what had happened to her to a responsible adult, prompting Durham Constabulary to initiate an investigation.

During the four-year investigation that involved more than 150 witnesses, detectives determined that Hadwin and Pickles repeatedly abused the children by making them eat soap, locking them in cupboards, forcing them into boiling hot showers and baths – sometimes submerging their heads in the water – and denying them food.

The youngsters were frequently forced to forage for food, and on one occasion they were discovered at 4 a.m. travelling alone to a shop four miles away in an attempt to acquire food.

The couple would frequently order takeout and force the children to watch them eat while in stressful standing positions for extended periods of time.

Hadwin and Pickles were charged with multiple counts of child maltreatment, sexual activity with a kid, and obstruction of justice.

Hadwin was also charged with three counts of rape in connection with the non-recent abuse of another child when she was a child. All accusations were denied, resulting in a seven-week trial at Teesside Crown Court.

During the trial, medical professionals testified that the children endured excruciating injuries on a regular basis, with one youngster suffering life-threatening injuries as a result of the abuse.

They also learned that the two prepared letters, which were provided to police, pretending to be from the children, in which they apologized for lying and said they were sorry, and in which they falsely accused support personnel of sexual assault.

However, a handwriting expert determined that the handwriting was not that of a child and that the letters were penned in a notebook discovered at the Bowburn residence of the couple.

The jury convicted Hadwin guilty of three charges of rape, seven counts of negligence, and one count of perverting the course of justice after three days of deliberation. He was acquitted of sexual conduct with a minor.

Pickles was convicted of five counts of child maltreatment and one count of obstructing justice. She was acquitted of sexual conduct with a minor.

Both were remanded in custody until sentencing on April 28 at the same court.

Detective Inspector Tonya Cook, who oversaw the investigation, stated following the verdict, ‘This was a painful case in which all witnesses, partners, and the police displayed high levels of professionalism to ensure justice for these children.

It has also demonstrated Durham Constabulary’s dedication to keeping our communities safe and to hearing the voices of children when they speak up against others.

The investigating officer, Detective Constable Kat Pudney of Durham Constabulary’s Safeguarding Unit, stated, ‘This was an extraordinarily complicated and distressing inquiry for everyone involved, the likes of which I have never faced in my career as a police officer.

‘Hadwin and Pickles subjected a number of vulnerable children to different forms of abuse, robbing them of their youth and leaving them with psychological scars from which they may never recover.

“I want to emphasize how tremendously courageous these youngsters have been throughout this protracted investigation; their courage in standing up to their abusers deserves praise.

‘One of Hadwin’s victims is now a young woman; she has demonstrated extraordinary courage by retelling her tragedy many years afterwards. I hope she finds some solace in her assailant’s conviction and incarceration.

‘Throughout this investigation, Hadwin and Pickles have misled to police and other experts and attempted to place blame on others in an effort to deflect attention from themselves.

“I am ecstatic that the jury has rendered these verdicts, which will ultimately prevent more children from falling prey to their deceptive and despicable behavior.

I hope that this outcome will allow the children to conclude this chapter of their lives and embark on a path of healing.

She continued, “The protection and well-being of children is everyone’s responsibility; every child deserves to be safe, protected, and loved.”

Please speak up if you feel a youngster is being abused or neglected; your actions could save a life

 

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