Durham couple subjected children to horrific abuse including making them eating soap and denying them food

A couple who subjected children to horrific physical and emotional abuse have been convicted after a four-year investigation.

Andrew Hadwin and Cheryl Pickles’ offending came to light in 2018 when one of the children bravely disclosed what had happened to a trusted adult, and a Durham Constabulary investigation was launched.

During an inquiry which involved more than 150 witnesses, detectives found Hadwin and Pickle repeatedly abused the children by forcing them to eat soap, locking them in cupboards, forcing them into boiling hot showers and baths - sometimes submerging their heads - and withdrawing access to food.

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On one occasion, they were found at 4am walking alone to a supermarket four miles away to try to find food.

The pair were convicted at Teesside Crown Court

The Bowburn pair would order takeaways and make the children watch them eat while stood in stress positions for long periods of time.

Hadwin, 39, and Pickles, 35, were charged with several offences of child neglect and sexual activity with a child, and one count of perverting the course of justice.

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Hadwin was also charged with three counts of rape in relation to non-recent abuse of another child.

Fake letters

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The pair denied all charges, resulting in a seven-week trial at Teesside Crown Court which heard medical experts describe how the children regularly suffered painful harm, with one left with life-limiting injuries from the abuse.

They wrote letters, supposedly from the children, in which they apologised for lying and made false allegations of sexual assault by professionals working to support them.

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A handwriting expert confirmed the letters had actually been written in a notebook found at the couple’s home.

After three days, the jury found Hadwin guilty of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one count of perverting the course of justice. He was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.

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Pickles was found guilty of five counts of child cruelty and one of perverting the course of justice. She was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.

The pair were remanded in custody to be sentenced on Friday, April 28.

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‘An extremely complex and distressing investigation’

Detective Inspector Tonya Cook, from Durham Constabulary, led the enquiry: “This was an extensive and lengthy investigation drawing together evidence from partner agencies, experts, and neighbours,” she said.

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“This was a distressing case in which all witnesses, partners, and the police have shown high levels of professionalism to ensure justice is achieved for these children.”

Investigating officer Detective Constable Kat Pudney, of Durham Constabulary’s Safeguarding Unit, added: “This was an extremely complex and distressing investigation for all involved, the likes of which I have never encountered during my time as a police officer.

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“Hadwin and Pickles subjected vulnerable children to multiple forms of abuse, robbing them of their childhood, and undoubtedly leaving them with psychological wounds which they may never truly recover from.

“I am delighted the jury have returned these verdicts, ultimately protecting further children from falling victim to their manipulative and abhorrent behaviour.

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“If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, please speak out – your actions could save a life.”

Concerns can be reported police by calling 101, or 999 if life is in immediate danger. Reports can be made anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.