11th Dec, 2016

Two bullying Coventry care home staff found guilty of child abuse

Coventry Editorial 10th Feb, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

TWO bullying ex-members of staff at a now-demolished children’s home have been convicted of physically and psychologically abusing youngsters in their care in the 1980s.

One of the men has also been found guilty of indecently assaulting one of the girls at the Wisteria Lodge children’s home in Earlsdon, Coventry.

The jury at Warwick Crown Court is still considering further charges alleging that both Alan Todd and Kenneth Owen each repeatedly sexually abused another girl at the home.

Todd (70) of Tile Hill Lane, Tile Hill, Coventry, had denied eight charges of indecently assaulting three girls and six charges of cruelty to a child relating to one of those girls, three other girls and two boys.

His offences included psychological cruelty by making a girl who had become a vegetarian look into a bag in which he had a dead rabbit with its stomach torn open to expose unborn foetuses.

Owen (70) of Dickin Hill Road, Boston, Lincolnshire, denied three charges of indecently assaulting one girl and five of cruelty towards two girls and three boys.

Both men claimed the 22 allegations against them had been fabricated by their alleged victims, who were accused of colluding to make complaints against them and doing so in order to get compensation payments.

But after considering the evidence for almost seven hours, the jury rejected their suggestions and convicted the two men of offences against a total of seven victims.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC had explained the offences took place when the men were in their late 30s and early 40s and working as the Child Support Team at Wisteria Lodge, with Owen rising to become group leader and, for a time, Todd’s manager, and their victims were in their early teens.

The first charge of cruelty towards a girl who went into care in the mid-80s, when she was about 12, related only to Todd, who was her personal social worker at Wisteria Lodge.

When she ‘kicked off’ after being punished for breaking a window, he dragged her from her bed, led to the top of the stairs and shoved down a flight of seven or eight before pulling her to her feet by her ear, causing a cut which bled.

Although they convicted Todd of that offence, the jury cleared him of two allegations of indecently assaulting her.

It was through her that the investigation came to be launched in October 2013 when she was the first of the victims to approach the police.

She also gave officers the names of other children she remembered, and the police were able to start tracing them.

As to why they had not complained at the time, Mr Heywood said: “The prosecution suggest that the defendants were taking advantage of those very issues of isolation and vulnerability – and who was going to believe a ‘care kid.’”

One girl who was sexually abused by Todd on a number of occasions began running away to her grandparents, who she told about how she was being treated by him, although not about the indecent assaults on her. When she was returned, he beat her with his belt”

The remaining six victims were not sexually abused, but were subjected to cruelty, three of them by both men and a further two by Owen alone and one by Todd.

The jury also heard that on a night walk Todd and Owen had grabbed a boy, aged about 13 at the time, and held him over a well, threatening to drop him – then did so, but in fact it contained only an inch or two of water.

Both men were convicted of cruelty towards that boy, with Todd having assaulted him in the shower at the home by shoving him against the wall and causing his head to bleed heavily, and Owen by hitting him to the side of his head, which he told the jury caused him to suffer a perforated eardrum.

Owen also goaded and bullied two other boys at the home, punishing one of them by forcing him to stand with his trousers down and kicking him to his ankles and knees until he fell.

He used ‘gratuitous violence’ towards the other boy after goading the 13-year-old into giving him an excuse to physically restrain him, during which Owen used excessive and painful force.

The jury has still to reach verdicts on three allegations against each man that for over a year in the mid-80s they both took opportunities to sexually abuse another girl.