Six young children were forced to eat raw chillies and were stung with nettles as punishment by a pair of “out of control” Mormon churchgoers, a jury heard today.
The four girls and two boys allegedly suffered nine years of physical and emotional cruelty at the hands of two best friends, Deidre Carrington and Maria Keable.
Prosecutor Robin Johnson told Canterbury Crown Court: “This was a case of two women who were completely out of control and were acting in a disgraceful way to these children.”
The pair met at a Mormon temple 10 years ago. Both Carrington, 41, and Keable, 60, were living in Ramsgate, Kent, at the time.
The jury of nine men and three women heard the children, who were all aged under 16 at the time, were routinely hit with wooden rolling pins, force-fed raw eggs, and lined up in a row and punched and kicked.
The chilli punishment was even applied to a two-year-old girl, Mr Johnson said.
One boy was also gagged, tied to a bed and covered with a sheet.
An eight-year-old boy was provided with gloves to administer the stinging nettle punishment to other children. Mr Johnson said: “He said he did that because had he not he would have been hit.”
The boy, referring to Carrington, said: “She would whack us and then give us more chilli,” said Mr Robinson.
On another occasion he was set upon by both women, who pushed him back and forth between them while delivering blows. Mr Johnson quoted one of the girls who witnessed the violence, and said: “Maria called it like using him as a football”.
He quoted another girl, now aged 11, who witnessed the violence. She said: “I was thinking to myself, how come we can’t punch and kick but you can?”
Keable, who is Macedonian, told police that “in her country, the use of chilli was normal” and that “my own mother used it” Mr Robinson said. She believed “her motives were Christian,” he added.
She admitted to police she hit the children for not eating raw eggs and honey. Mr Robinson said: “She did slap them for not eating it because it was a ‘healthy part of their diet’.”
Carrington told police she was having “emotional problems” when she made one girl eat chilli powder.
The pair rose at 4am on Sundays to travel to a Mormon temple in London. They also visited the Mormon church, known as The Church of the Latter Day Saints, in Canterbury and Deal in Kent.
Carrington, of Chiswick, west London, and Keable, of Ramsgate, both deny six counts of child cruelty and one assault charge between January 1997 and January last year.