Children beaten and starved in Australia's 'house of horrors'
Published 11/02/2011 | 12:21
A group of Australian men and women who beat and starved a group of children so badly that their brains shrank from malnutrition have been jailed for up to 10 years.
For four months in 2008, the five young siblings were forced to stand in a line almost all day with their hands on their heads. They were only fed scraps of food and would be beaten or choked if they tried to get more.
A Supreme Court judge in Adelaide said that the level of abuse, in what has been dubbed South Australia's "house of horrors, was hard to believe.
"The manner in which these children were treated is beyond comprehension," said Justice Kevin Duggan, describing how a daily routine of deprivation and cruelty was suffered by the children, aged between four and seven at the time.
"It reached the point where the children were made to stand in the same position from morning to night.
"The adults were vigilant to make sure they were prevented from eating anything more."
The abuses, at a filthy and chaotic home in the Adelaide suburbs, only came to light when one of the children fell unconscious with malnutrition and hypothermia and was taken to hospital. By then, the boy's core body temperature had fallen so low that he needed help to breathe.
Investigators found all five children were badly underweight and had stunted growth, with open sores or ulcers on their legs and feet, and had scabies. Examinations also showed that their brains had shrunk from lack of nutrition.
Tania Staker, 36, who was described as the ringleader, was jailed for 10 years, while the children's father Luke Armistead, 38, was given nine years along with two other men. The children have not been named.
Justice Duggan said the house, which was home to a total of 21 children and six adults, was "not fit for habitation".
"The deteriorating condition of the children must have been evident to every adult in the household," he said, according to public broadcaster ABC.
He said it would not be difficult to imagine that the children would suffer psychological harm in the future as a result of the abuse.
The children's mother had already been jailed for at least three years after pleading guilty to a string of charges. Justice Duggan said Staker may have been motivated by jealousy, as she was the partner of the children's father.