October 2017

Farmer starved and beat his three children for a decade

A wealthy farmer subjected his three surviving children to a decade of sadistic beatings following the tragic death of his two sons.

Derek Rawlinson took out his grief and frustrations on the two girls and one boy after his eldest child died while trying to rescue the youngest from a pond at their family farm.

The youngsters – two of whom witnessed the tragedy – would be thrashed with belts, drain rods, and broom handles whilst their mother Maureen, a nurse would spank and chasitse them if they dared to complain.

One of the girls was made by her father to touch an electric fence to see if she would get a shock whilst the other who had a fear of spiders was confined to the damp and dark cellar at the family’s remote £350,000 farmhouse near Saddleworth Moors, outside Oldham .

Rawlinson also regularly told the children that he would kill them and bury them in the garden if they were to misbehave – but three suffered in silence. Two were so terrified of their father they took rat poison in an attempt to kill themselves in a suicide pact.

Rawlinson and his wife were eventually arrested 40 years after the abuse – which was committed in the 1970s and 1980s – when a relative of one of the two women both now in their 50s went to police.


Doctors found the women still had visible injuries from kicking they sustained decades earlier from their father whilst he was wearing steel toe-capped boots.

Rawlinson’s surviving son Michael was so haunted by his ordeal he became a drug-addict and in 1999 aged 36 he was stabbed to death in a bungled drug deal.

In a statement one of the daughters now a mother of four said: “Parents are supposed to love and protect you but mine abused me.

“As a result I never felt confident hugging or kissing my own children – I didn’t used to tell my children I loved them and it took the birth of my grandchildren to show those emotions. My children know I love them and I’m able to show that love now but I have a lack of confidence, I find it difficult to trust anyone.

“If you grow up with parents that constantly tell you you’re fat and ugly you never get over that but I am nothing like my parents. I’m not a cruel person and despite everything they have done to me I still love them, they are still my mum and dad. Even though I want justice I’m human, my parents admitting their guilt is enough for me.”

The other sister said: “There are no winners just a very sad situation. I knew I had to stand by my sister and support her in telling the truth also for my brothers, the brothers who no longer have voices and suffered just the same.

“There are physical and emotional scars that will stay with me to my grave. All I wanted was parents who were accepting, loving, nurturing and caring. You are still my parents but I no longer seek your approval. I’m no longer your daughter – I’m my own person.”

At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Rawlinson, now 80 from Littleborough, near Rochdale was jailed for four years after he admitted child cruelty and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

His wife, now 76, admitted child cruelty and was given 21 months suspended for two years.

The couple had married in 1957 when Maureen was just 17 and throughout that marriage had six children together. But one of the boys boy died aged four months in 1960 and in 1971 oldest child James, then aged 12 died attempting to rescue younger brother Peter, aged seven who drowned in a pond at the farm.

Prosecuting said the double tragedy which was witnessed by two of the other siblings then aged 10 and nine, led to their father suffering a severe mental breakdown.

Mr Hall said: “He became a bitter, violent, controlling man who focused his frustrations on his remaining children. Maureen Rawlinson did little, if anything, to protect the remaining children from him and would, over time, come to support Derek in focusing his frustrations on them.

“Initially, the Rawlinsons kept the children isolated at the farmhouse, by stopping friends and relatives visiting and preventing them from visiting others. The children would often be played off against each other in order to prevent them trusting each other.

“This isolation also extended to the emotional level as the children were starved of any love or affection. At its height, Derek Rawlinson would tell his daughters that he wished they had drowned instead of James and Peter.

“In addition, Mr and Mrs Rawlinson deprived the children of food, either by sending them to their rooms at mealtimes when food was clearly being prepared or eating in front of the children but refusing to allow them anything to eat.

“The situation got to the point where the children would smuggle food out of the kitchen to their bedrooms in order to be able to eat.’’

One of the girls was caught smuggling dates into her room and was made to eat them covered in mustard whilst the other was forced to eat raw eggs. The older daughter then aged around 12 had her bedroom floorboards ripped up and all her furniture burnt as punishment after she tried to sneak in a jar of rasberries.

She was also branded ‘the biggest sl*g walking’, ‘a slut’ and ‘the village bike’ and her hair was cut so short by Rawlinson himself, the girls’ headmaster allowed her to wear her coat hood up in class until it grew back.

In another incident Rawlinson grabbed one of the various shotguns he kept at the farm took aim in the lounge at the girl then fired into furniture where she was cowering.

When she suffered a wound to her head following a hiding, her parents stitched it themselves using a bent needle.

The younger daughter then aged about eight had the entire contents of her bedroom thrown out of her window onto the farmland outside and she was forced to watch them rot in the rain. They included her only doll and school clothing.

Rawlinson also made the girl hold an electric fence at the farm to see if it was working – only to realise she was not getting any electric shock as she was wearing rubber wellington boots.

He then made her change into her school shoes and laughed as she recoiled from touching the wire. He also told her he wished she had been aborted before she was born and that she ‘belonged in horror films’.

Mr Hall said: “He often seemed to gain strange pleasure from seeing his children suffering. he knew his older daughter was scared of spiders so he put her the stairs in the farmhouse where it was dark and damp. Despite her fears, she would never ask to leave as to do so would have resulted in a beating. All of the control and bitterness was reinforced with violence.

“He regularly punched and kicked both girls, often telling them that if anyone asked about the bruising they should say that they fell. Both went privately to Maureen Rawlinson to complain but her response was to chastise them for saying such a thing and to spank her.”

The court heard over the ensuing years, the two women told friends and loved ones and later their own children about experiences and one of their sons went to police.

Rawlinson later denied wrongdoing claiming his eldest daughter was a ‘problem child’ and ‘mentally ill’ and accused the other gilr of beingf drug addict. He claimed both women had concocted the story in a a bid to get money from him and his wife as ‘they were quite wealthy’.

But Judge Maurice Greene told him: “You children have a lack of self worth and lack of being able to show love to their own children. Scars which are still with them. One still has nightmares and remains in fear of you.

“What you did to your children can only be described as the most terrible cruelty that blighted their childhood and their lives – even to the present day.”