Authorities under fire over ‘British Fritzl’ daughter rape case
An investigation has been launched into the failings of police and social services in the case of a father who made his two daughters pregnant 19 times during almost 30 years of rape and physical abuse.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was given 25 life sentences yesterday. He will serve a minimum of 19 years and six months in prison.
He fathered nine children with his daughters, two of whom died at birth. The other 10 pregnancies were miscarried or terminated.
The case echoes that of the Austrian man Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter underground for 24 years and fathered her seven children.
The British man pleaded guilty last month to 25 counts of rape committed in the early 1980s and continuing until this year when the women finally sought help.
Child protection experts are questioning how the abuse was not detected by those who came into contact with the family.
Jayne Ludlam, the director of children’s and young people’s services at Sheffield city council, said social workers became aware of the “harrowing” abuse in June and an independent review into the case had been launched.
The court was told of several contacts with authorities who could have brought the case to the attention of police. The actions of Lincolnshire county council, and both Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire police, are to be investigated.
James Baird, representing the defendant, said: “It must be inconceivable to those who have listened to this case that these offences have been carried out, in this day and age in a so-called civilised society, over such a long time and with such consequences, without them being reported or investigated.
“All the signs were indicative of an incestuous relationship. It is my submission that despite these circumstances and real suspicion, nothing was done by Lincolnshire social services or Sheffield social services about how any woman could endure these pregnancies.”
Sheffield crown court heard how the British man, who is 56 and divorced, began abusing the sisters when they were between eight and 10, and that they were badly beaten to make them comply.
He “took pleasure” in assaulting the girls, the court heard, and the violent attacks would stop only while the children were pregnant.
“His younger daughter told of the frightening habit her father had of putting her head next to the flames of their gas fire and that when she struggled to get away on certain occasions she burnt her eyes,” the prosecutor, Nicholas Campbell QC, told the court. They were kept out of school when their injuries were visible and the family moved repeatedly to avoid suspicion. The girls’ mother left in the early 1990s; a brother lived with them until his teens.
The court heard that in 1988 suspicions were raised at the victims’ school due to their injuries, but these were blamed on bullying. One of the women was asked by a doctor if her father was the father of her children, but she denied it. The girls called Childline, the court was told, and asked for a guarantee that their children would not be taken away, but hung up when this assurance could not be given.
In sentencing, the judge, Alan Goldsack QC, said: “The phrase ‘it is difficult to imagine a worse case’ is much overused and rarely, if ever, true. But I can say that in nearly 40 years of dealing with criminal cases and 14 as a family judge the combination of aggravating circumstances here is the worst I have come across.
“Due to the seriousness of this case an independent review has already been launched which will look into the circumstances surrounding the case and the contact the agencies had with the victims.”
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