Four people who beat and starved a group of children so badly that their brains shrank from malnutrition were jailed for up to 10 years yesterday in a case dubbed Australia’s “house of horrors.”
A Supreme Court judge in Adelaide called the abuse “beyond comprehension” after the five young children were choked, forced to stand all day with their hands on their heads and fed only scraps of food over four months in 2008.
“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 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.
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 showed 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.
Justice Duggan said the house, which was home to a total of 21 children and six adults, was “not fit for habitation.” He added that the abusers were “vigilant” to make sure the children were not fed properly.
“The deteriorating condition of the children must have been evident to every adult in the household,” he said, according to public broadcaster ABC.
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.