Two Mormon women who force-fed six young children chilli powder and beat them with rolling pins were jailed for 19 months each yesterday.
The court heard that best friends Deirdre Carrington, 41, and Maria Keable, 60, had subjected the youngsters to a campaign of abuse which included whipping the children with stinging nettles, gagging them and tying them to a bed.
Yesterday at Canterbury crown court Judge Timothy Nash said the treatment of the children had verged on the sadistic. “There has to be a prison sentence,” he told the women. “This was a force of sustained cruelty that some would say bordered on torture.”
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The court heard that the women, who met at the British headquarters of the Mormon Temple of the Church of Jesus and the Latter Day Saints in Crawley, West Sussex, meted out severe punishments to discipline the two boys and four girls, aged two to 12, and make them work harder.
The court heard that they punched and kicked the children, hit them with wooden spoons and made them eat chilli powder and raw eggs.
Both women pleaded not guilty but a jury of nine men and three women convicted them on six counts of child cruelty and an assault after a two-week trial. Carrington and Keable were given 14 months in prison for child cruelty and an additional five months for actual bodily harm. Both were banned from working with children indefinitely.
Mr Nash said: “There has not been one single word of remorse and not the slightest indication or reflection of any sorrow on your part. Neither of you have come to terms with the nature of cruelty towards the six children. These children will be emotionally scarred for many years to come. The cruelty did not happen on one occasion but many, many occasion in different forms over many years.”
During the trial the court heard that Keable, originally from Macedonia, had brainwashed Carrington to join her in beating the youngsters at a house in Ramsgate, Kent.
Robin Johnson, prosecuting, said the youngsters were forced to sit up until midnight listening to lectures from Keable and woken at 5am every day, made to say prayers and read scripture, before doing hours of housework. If they failed to do their jobs quickly enough and to a high enough standard, they were punished.
Mr Johnson said: “The cruelty amounted to physical harm, punishing these children even when they were very young, and perpetrating emotional abuse on them at a young age.”
Carrington and Keable, who also attended Mormon churches in Deal and Canterbury, fed chilli powder and raw chillies to the youngest victim, who was two. The eldest victim, a boy now 13, gave evidence by video link. He said the children had often been forced to sit in a line on a bed and swallow tablespoons of chilli powder or eat raw chillies when they upset Keable. To make the punishment worse they would have to drink a glass of water to make their mouths and throats burn more. “We sometimes cried because it was really hot, she would just whack us and give us some more,” he said
The court heard that he had been forced to rub stinging nettles up and down the bare legs of the other children if they failed to complete their tasks. The boy was beaten on a daily basis, tied to a bed and gagged, and thrown across the room .
The abuse of the children was discovered when the boy told a teacher, who informed the police and social services.
Carrington, of Chiswick, west London, told the police the children were lying. She said she had made the youngsters eat chillies once and smacked them with an open hand to discipline them, but denied ever punching them.
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