Febuary 2009

CARLISLE BABY WAS BITTEN, SCRATCHED AND BURNED IN THREE YEARS OF TORTURE

Elodie Massacrier and Reuben Williams

Sadistic Reuben Williams subjected his young daughter to nearly three years of horrific abuse which left her body covered in scars.

The doctor at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary who examined the three-year-old was so upset by what he saw that he had to leave the room to hide his distress.

Her arms, legs, and torso covered with nearly 200 scars, the child had suffered the most extreme abuse that the police officers investigating her case had ever seen.

Across the child’s bottom were 10, 5in long scars – sustained as Williams held his baby daughter down on a burning hot storage heater.

Many of the other scars were caused by Williams viciously biting and scratching his terrified daughter.

Astonishingly, the youngster’s mother – 22-year-old Elodie Massacrier – stood by her man, covering the abuse so effectively that it continued from just a few months after the child’s birth in April 2005 until just a few weeks short of her third birthday.

Fashion conscious and intelligent, Massacrier took immense care of her own appearance.

Yet her daughter’s scarring means she will probably never be able to dress fashionably or even sunbathe on a beach when she grows older, said Judge Peter Hughes QC.

At Carlisle Crown Court yesterday, the full horror of the girl’s ordeal was revealed. The judge described the child’s prolonged suffering as “profoundly shocking”.

Though remarkably resilient, the youngster would be emotionally and physically scarred for life, he said.

Williams, 23, who admitted three counts of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent to do so on the child, was jailed indefinitely.

He must serve at least five years before he can apply for parole and will not be released until experts say he no longer poses a threat.

Massacrier, 22, admitted two charges of cruelty by covering up her partner’s abuse of the child and by not getting medical treatment for her injuries. She was jailed for two and a half years.

Judge Hughes handed down the sentences after hearing three hours of evidence about how the child suffered indescribable abuse at the hands of her father, and how Massacrier went to extraordinary lengths to hide it.

Hilary Manley, prosecuting, told how Massacrier had left home at 17 and became pregnant to Williams shortly afterwards. At first, their daughter’s life had seemed uneventful.

A health visitor who spoke to the family when the child was eight months old raised no concerns, though it is not clear whether the baby girl was examined unclothed.

At the time, the family were living in Northampton, near to Williams’ adoptive mother Elizabeth Williams.

But she began to have concerns from about the time of the child’s first birthday, said Miss Manley.

“She’d already noticed Williams seemed to have little concept of potential dangers to the baby, such as ensuring that she was placed securely and not left to roll off furniture.”

Miss Manley described how Mrs Williams bought the baby a dress for her first birthday.

She said: “When Massacrier visited, Mrs Williams suggested trying the dress on the child to check if it fitted. Massacrier became flustered, made excuses, and left in a hurry. She seemed unwilling to allow the child to be undressed.”

Even as the child played in the garden during hot summer weather, Massacrier dressed her in a polo neck jumper, dungarees and thick tights.

She chose those clothes because they concealed her daughter’sinjuries, Miss Manley told the court.

By July 2006 Mrs Williams was so concerned that she contacted the child’s doctor, who suggested speaking to officials at Social Services.

Mrs Williams told them of Massacrier’s refusal to let the child be seen undressed, and how she missed routine doctor and healthappointments.

As a result, a health visitor twice tried to visit the family, and then wrote them a letter but got no reply.

That was because by then the couple had fled to Carlisle, where a relative of Williams had originally lived.

In August 2006, aware of the concerns raised in Northampton, a health visitor visited the family in the Carlisle hostel where they were living. The child was neither seen nor examined, said Miss Manley.

“The defendants told the health visitor that she was asleep. Massacrier told her that her daughter was progressing well.

“That, of course, was a lie, as the child had already by then sustained serious and painful injuries at the hands of her father.

“The health visitor reported that there were no child protection issues.”

The couple found rented accommodation in Stanhope Road, off Wigton Road, their daughter continuing to miss routine appointments with the health visitor. The child was not registered with a GP.

In November 2006, Social Services received an anonymous tip-off, the caller claiming that Williams was violent to his daughter and that Massacrier was doing nothing to protect her.

Yet when a social worker visited the couple, Massacrier said that she and Williams had a good relationship.

“Both defendants suggested the anonymous referral was borne out of racism,” said Mrs Manley, pointing out that the child was not examined without her clothes on.

“The social worker concluded there was no evidence to suggest the child was mistreated by her parents and that no further action be taken by Social Services.

As a result of that mistake, said Mrs Manley, the little girl suffered a further 15 months of physical abuse and neglect.

Throughout 2007, Massacrier did nothing to alert the authorities to her daughter’s terrifying plight.

Massacrier and Williams became friendly with Carlisle couple Jillian Graham and Chris Skingley.

Mrs Manley said: “Mrs Graham noticed that whatever the defendant’s daughter needed to go to the lavatory, or have a nappy change, Massacrier would take her to the bathroom and lock the door.”

Massacrier dressed her daughter to ensure that only her face – the one part of her body not left with scars – was ever exposed.

Ms Graham also noticed how Williams at times behaved oddly, verbally abusing Massacrier and occasionally biting her bottom over her clothing, said Mrs Manley.

The child abuse was finally uncovered on March 9, 2008, the day after Massacrier appeared at Ms Graham’s front door, her nose bleeding, her cheek bitten.

She had fled from her house, leaving her daughter at home with Williams.

“She told Ms Graham that Williams had hit her and bitten her on the nose, cheek and neck, and ripped out her ear-rings,” said Mrs Manley.

A short time later, Williams barged into the house, yelling: “Just tell the truth Elodie. I’m gonna stab you – I’m gonna go down for a long time.”

It was the next day, as Massacrier spoke to police officer Amanda Robinson about the attack on her that Ms Graham took the child to the toilet and noticed scars on her legs.

She told the police officer and the child was immediately taken into foster care.

Williams claimed his daughter burned herself accidentally on a storage heater, but a doctor said the injury could not have been accidental. It resulted from the child being held down on the heater.

Consultant paediatrician Dr John Sills said inflicting such an injury was “sadistic”.

It would have been so painful the child, if treated medially, would quite probably have been given morphine, said the doctor.

Many of the scars were from bite injuries, and others were consistent with cigarette burns, though Williams denied doing that.

Massacrier said Williams was often angry with his daughter, biting or digging his nails into her flesh.

“Due to the sheer number of injuries it was impossible to count them,” said Miss Manley, but there are thought to be nearly 200 scars.

Some scars were whip marks, possibly from being hit by an electric flex. Doctors believe the little girl suffered immense acute pain.

When interviewed by police, Williams was tearful, and claimed he loved his daughter and Massacrier.

But in a letter to his adoptive mother, he said: “Sometimes, I’d have the worst nightmare and I’ll shake my body. Then I’ll get up and attack whoever is closest to me, Elodie or our daughter. I would really hurt them both for a few seconds, bite, punch, pull hair, scratch, and I could not do one thing to stop it.”

Massacrier refused to answer police questions.

Nick Peacock, defending Williams, said he was a “fractured” young man, the son of a Manchester prostitute who was addicted to heroin. He saw his mother physically abused.

In Northampton, Williams had been abducted, stripped, burned and beaten by a gang. That was why the family came to Carlisle.

“He’s had a childhood history of attention deficit disorder,” said the barrister, adding that the defendant had also been a heavy user of cocaine.

Claire Thomas, for Massacrier, said her client, who has passed GCSEs and has an A level in French, also suffered at the hands of Williams.

She had considered running a defence claiming she was under duress.

Miss Thomas said: “She was ashamed of what was happening to her daughter and once she had initially covered up for Mr Williams she was in deeper and deeper and felt unable to talk to anyone.”

Miss Thomas said Massacrier, who now has another younger child, was in daily contact with both children.

Arguing against a prison sentence, Miss Thomas added: “That contact is a positive thing in her life.”

Judge Hughes pointed out that Massacrier was trying to protect herself from prison by using the child she herself had failed to protect.

He said: “Any right-thinking person who has been in this courtroom today can not have been left other than profoundly shocked and appalled that any parent could so treat a young child and over such a long period.

“Reuben Williams, you deliberately abused your daughter and inflicted pain upon her from when she was just a few months old until shortly before the time of your arrest last year.

“You bit her, you pinched her, and you did so on virtually ever part of her body with the one exception of the most visible part, her face. This was done sometimes with sufficient force to cause her wounds to bleed.

“Her body has been left disfigured… You held down her naked bottom on a hot storage heater for long enough to leave permanent scarring. That was rightly described by the plastic surgeon who examined the scarring as sadistic.

“It must have caused excruciating pain and suppurating burns which needed but never got proper medical attention.”

The judge told Massacrier: “You covered up the abuse that your daughter was suffering: You covered it quite literally, by dressing her in clothes that would hide her injuries.

“You deliberately avoided taking her to the doctor for check-ups and immunisations.

“What you two did to this little girl will be with her for the rest of her life. Physically, she’s literally scarred for life… but she’s a remarkably resilient little child, a lovely little girl, with a beautiful smile, as I’ve seen some of the photos but the emotional harm that you two have caused her in incalculable.”

The child, who is currently with foster carers, is likely in the future to be cared for by relatives abroad.