Young brothers get five years for sadistic torture of boys
Policeman tells of stumbling on horrific scene
Published 23/01/2010 | 05:00
Hunting through dense woodland, Sgt Richard Vernon came upon what he now describes as "the most distressing scene I've ever dealt with".
Sgt Vernon, a 41-year-old policeman of 22 years' experience, was part of a search team called out to look for a missing 11-year-old boy. He saw the boy wearing just a T-shirt and lying face down on the riverbank near Edlington, South Yorkshire.
"He was covered in blood," Sgt Vernon recalled. "I tried to keep him conscious, speaking to him, pinching his ear to keep him awake, basically. "It hit home and I was in tears. I don't mind admitting that."
As the boy was loaded into the air ambulance, Sgt Vernon, his colleagues and the rest of the village were already wondering who could have carried out such a brutal assault.
An assault in which two boys, aged 11 and nine, out enjoying a Saturday morning on their BMX bikes, were lured to secluded woodland and subjected to an hour and a half of torture and sexual abuse which nearly ended in their death. The suggestion that the attacks were meted out by two children, aged 10 and 11, shocked many people.
But to those who knew the boys and their family, it was not surprising.
Yesterday, the two young brothers responsible were locked up for a minimum of five years.
Sentencing the brothers, the judge said they "got a real kick out of humiliating and hurting" the victims.
The attacks happened when the boys had been living in the former mining village of Edlington for less than a month. They had been placed with a foster family on March 10 after their mother phoned social services to say that she could no longer cope with them. By that time both boys had already been immersed in what was described in court as a "toxic" home life.
Their earliest childhood memories were of sitting in the front garden of their home in Doncaster so they could not hear their father beat their mother. Her seven sons would know it was safe to return to the house only when they saw their father leave. They too were victims of his temper. Their father would hit them with a slipper and throw ashtrays at them. The elder defendant recalled his father punching him in the stomach. "Hard punches, really hard punches," he described them.
The elder defendant also admitted he had watched his father's pornographic DVDs and horror films such as 'Child's Play' and 'Saw'. By the age of nine he also had a 10-cigarette-a-day habit and drank cider and vodka. He also used to smoke cannabis grown on his father's allotment and was allowed to use his father's gun.
He was, his barrister Peter Kelson QC, explained, "subjected to gross physical and emotional abuse and neglect". He added: "His family experience was characterised by routine aggression, violence and chaos."
The family was well known, not just to social services, but to the police too. Their elder brother is in prison and, despite their tender ages, both boys have been in trouble with the law previously. They had both been the subject of anti-social behaviour contracts since January 2008, when aged 10 and nine. The elder brother's offending began in August 2007 when he was reprimanded for assaulting an 11-year-old boy at a park.
In November 2007, the elder boy was given a formal police warning for attempted theft, when he tried to steal a 65-year-old woman's handbag from her in the street.
His first conviction was in February 2008 when he was charged with common assault when he attacked the same 11-year-old boy who had been targeted in August 2007. This time he punched the boy twice in the face. In October 2008 he was convicted of battery when he punched and kicked a 52-year-old teacher.
In January 2009 he was convicted again of battery. In this incident he had shouted at an eight-year-old boy: "I will kill you, you f***ing bastard." He tried to punch the boy, but his mother stepped in. She was then punched twice and had to flee to a shop to call the police. And, again in January 2009, he punched a teacher who had tried to split up a fight with another pupil.
The younger boy has one previous offence. He was reprimanded in March 2009, just days after arriving in Edlington, when he punched a female teacher in the abdomen. He ran away, but was restrained by a male teacher. When the man let the boy go, he was headbutted.
The attacks on the two boys, the elder of whom was the uncle of the younger boy, were preceded the previous weekend by a near-identical attack on another 11-year-old boy. That ordeal, on March 28, ended only when a member of the public intervened. The boys were quickly identified and were due to be interviewed by the police on the day they carried out the second, more serious attacks.
During the trial the elder boy was described as intellectually weak. The younger boy was portrayed as more sinister.
Dr Eileen Vizard, a child psychiatrist who examined him, described his behaviour as sadistic and said he was showing signs of becoming a psychopathic offender. She said that for "a little 10-year-old boy" he was "surprisingly intimidating".
It is a cruel irony and certainly one that will vex their victims' family that, now in a secure unit and forced to spend at least the next five years away from each other and their family, the two Edlington boys will perhaps have a better life than ever before. (©Independent News Service)