A Wolverhampton couple who starved a child and forced her to forage in bins have been jailed for more than eight years.
The couple, who were for the wilful neglect and cruelty of a child in their care, kept the child prisoner in an outhouse and caused her to contract the World War 1-era condition known as trench foot.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard the young girl suffered neglect and abuse at the hands of her mother and step-father over a period of more than three years until she was voluntarily taken into care at the age of 12.
The child, now aged 16, had been singled out from her siblings and denied food, clean clothing and a bed to sleep in.
At the time she was placed with foster parents she was found to be suffering from Trench Foot as a result of sleeping in cold, damp conditions. The condition took its name from the First World War trenches, where soldiers’ feet were immersed in water for long periods causing numbness, swelling, sores and even decay.
It was found that she had been locked out of the family home and made to sleep in an outhouse without adequate bedding well into the autumn months, when temperatures dipped to almost freezing point.
The girl was also found to have an untreated skin infection and a severe case of head lice.
The child’s weight was well below that of a normal 12-year-old and her growth had been affected by her lack of food. As a result it was reported that she took food from bins and asked strangers for money to buy things to eat.
Detective Sergeant Catherine Loosemore, from the force’s Public Protection Unit, said: "As soon as we were alerted to the child’s ill-treatment, we moved swiftly to arrest those responsible for her well-being.
"They initially denied the abuse, saying that it was the girl’s choice to sleep outside and that she was fed, but made herself sick, accounting for her small frame. At the time she was wearing the clothes of a seven-year-old and these were dirty and secondhand.
"As soon as she was taken into foster care, she quickly began to gain weight and slowly felt safe enough to talk about how she had been bullied at school as a result of her home life and poor hygiene.
"She had been frightened of her step-father who had threatened her on many occasions and she couldn’t understand why she alone suffered this abuse.
"Although she has recovered physically, the mental scars remain, but I hope with time and the happy home she now finds herself in, she will be able to feel the love and stability that she deserves."
The man and woman, aged 44 and 40, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted the cruelty of a child under 16 years of age yesterday (Monday October 23) and were sentenced to four years and three months each.
Anyone who suspects that a child may be being abused is advised to seek advice on the West Midlands Police website here.