A HEARTLESS couple starved, fed children soap and physically abused them in a twisted campaign of torture.
Cheryl Pickles, 35, and Andrew Hadwin, 39, forced the hungry kids to scavenge for food in supermarket bins.
They also locked the children in cupboards and made them take boiling hot showers and baths.
When the abuse was finally uncovered, the evil couple hatched a sick plot to hide their tracks.
Pickles and Hadwin wrote fake letters from the children saying: "We are sorry, we told lies".
The pair have now been convicted of a string of offences following a trial at Teesside Crown Court.
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Hadwin was found guilty of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one count of perverting the course of justice but cleared of sexual activity with a child.
The rape relates to the non-recent abuse of another child, which happened when she was little.
Pickles was convicted of five counts of child cruelty and one of perverting the course of justice.
She was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.
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The court was told the couple starved the children so badly they endured four mile walks to scavenge from bins.
One terrified child was held over a motorway bridge during a horrific campaign of torture.
Hadwin and Pickles also forced the children to watch while standing in stress positions as they ate takeaways in front of them.
They dunked their heads underwater and made the children take scalding hot baths and showers.
As a result of the vile abuse, the kids suffered painful injuries, with one child left with life-limiting injuries.
The sickening crimes finally came to an end in 2018 when one of the brave children told an adult what was happening.
A probe was launched by Durham Police, with Hadwin and Pickles trying to worm their way out with the letters.
But a handwriting expert debunked the fake notes and found they had actually been written in a notebook found at the couple’s home.
The pair were remanded in custody to be sentenced on April 28.
Detective Constable Kat Pudney, of Durham Constabulary’s Safeguarding Unit, said: "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.
“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.
“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 have returned these verdicts, ultimately protecting further children from falling victim to their manipulative and abhorrent behaviour.
“I hope this result will allow the children to close this chapter of their lives and start their healing journey.”
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