Andrew Hadwin and Cheryl Pickles: Horror couple made starving children eat soap, bathe in boiling water
If you or anyone you know suspects child abuse, you are urged to immediately call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential and the hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.
MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND: A horror couple has been convicted after reportedly forcing children to eat soap and scavenge for scraps following a police investigation. Andrew Hadwin and Cheryl Pickles, of Bowburn, are said to have subjected the minors to prolonged physical and emotional abuse over several years. Their offenses reportedly emerged in 2018 when one of the children confided in a trusted adult about what she went through, sparking an investigation by the Durham Constabulary.
Detectives found in the inquiry -- spanning four years and involving over 150 witnesses -- that the couple repeatedly abused their children by forcing them to eat soap, locking them in cupboards, making them take boiling hot showers and baths, and not giving them access to food. The children, who were sometimes submerged under water as punishment, often scavenged for scraps and were found on one occasion walking alone to a supermarket at 4 am hoping to find some food.
As reported by Teesside Live, Hadwin, 39, and Pickles, 35, would also order takeaways and make the children watch them eat while they stood in stressful positions for long periods of time. The couple was reportedly also charged with three counts of rape in connection to the abuse of another child when she was a little girl. The duo, however, denied all charges and are now facing a seven-week trial at Teesside Crown Court.
Medical experts told the court how the children regularly sustained painful injuries, and one of them was left with life-limiting injuries stemming from the abuse. Hadwin and Pickles reportedly wrote letters, which were handed to law enforcement, claiming to be from the children in which they appeared to apologize for lying. They also made false allegations of sexual assault by professionals working to support them. A handwriting expert later confirmed the writings were not that of a child and had actually been written in a notebook found at the couple's Bowburn residence.
Jurors deliberated for three days and concluded that Hadwin was guilty of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one count of perverting the course of justice. Meanwhile, Pickles was found guilty of five counts of child cruelty and one of perverting the course of justice. That said, both were found not guilty of sexual activity with a child. The pair was subsequently remanded in custody to be sentenced on April 28 at the same court.
“This was an extensive and lengthy investigation drawing together evidence from partner agencies, experts, and neighbors," Detective Inspector Tonya Cook from Durham Constabulary, who led the investigation, said in a statement. “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. It has also shown the commitment by Durham Constabulary to keeping those in our communities safe and to fully hear the voices of children when speaking up against those around them," she added.
Detective Constable Kat Pudney, of Durham Constabulary’s Safeguarding Unit, was the investigating officer in the case. “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," Pudney said. “Hadwin and Pickles subjected several 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 want to highlight how incredibly brave these children have been throughout this lengthy investigation - their strength to stand up to their abusers must be commended. One of Hadwin’s victims is now a young woman – she has shown incredible bravery in reliving her ordeal many years later. I hope she finds some comfort that her attacker has now been convicted and remanded."
Pudney continued, "Hadwin and Pickles have lied to police and other professionals, and attempted to blame others throughout this investigation, in an attempt to divert the attention away from themselves. I am delighted that the jury has returned these verdicts, ultimately protecting further children from falling victim to their manipulative and abhorrent behavior. I hope this result will allow the children to close this chapter of their lives and start their healing journey.”
Pudney added, “The safeguarding and well-being of children is everyone’s business - all children deserve to be safe, protected, and loved. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, please speak out – your actions could save a life. You can report suspected abuse or concerns to Durham Constabulary by calling 101, or 999 if life is in immediate danger. Alternatively, reports can be made completely anonymously to Crimestoppers at 0800 555 111. Concerns can also be reported to Durham County Council on 03000 267 979, or Darlington Borough Council on 01325 406222.”