Eunice Spry, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, had two children living with her in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire when she was approved as a foster carer in 1984. Judith Spry, her biological daughter and Charlotte Spry, a child she had adopted at birth. By 1987, three new children were living in her home. Victoria Evans, Alloma Gilbert and Christopher Spry were toddlers in need of a new home with a carer who would love and nurture them. Instead, they were faced with an evil woman who told them they were the devil’s children.
“Frankly, it’s difficult for anyone to understand how any human being could have even contemplated what you did, let alone with the regularity and premeditation you employed.” – Judge Simon Darwell-Smith
They were beaten, forced to eat pet food and stand in a corner for hours. Spry scrubbed their skin with sandpaper and locked them in rooms with no food or clothing for weeks on end. She beat the children with sticks, pushing the sticks down their throats when they cried, damaging them so they were in too much pain to swallow. When questioned by teachers at school, the children had been instructed to report they were fine and happy at home. In reality, these children were far from fine.
Spry moved her family to a remote farm near the village of Eckington allowing her even more privacy to abuse the children who by then did not attend school. The farm was in terrible condition with basic amenities either not connected or selectively in place with only the children Spry favoured being allowed access to them.
Her foster children were starved and not given access to running water or electric to keep clean and warm. If they managed to find scraps of food to eat, they would be punished. One incident involved ten-year-old Christopher whom Spry tied onto her van by his feet and dragged him behind the vehicle as she drove across a field.
Eunice Spry spared her own children the torture and abuse she inflicted daily on their foster siblings. She considered the foster children to be ‘children of the devil’ and as such deserved the treatment she gave them. Her own child Judith, and adopted daughter Charlotte, in comparison, were treated well. A fact which must have been even harder for those she abused to understand. While not abused physically by their mother, Judith and Charlotte were well aware of what was happening and at times were forced to abuse their siblings while Eunice looked on shouting instructions. A form of psychological abuse which has no doubt caused immeasurable harm.
When Victoria Evans was 14 years old, she was in a horrific accident with Charlotte and Judith when a lorry smashed into the back of their car while travelling on the M5. The driver of the lorry was later convicted after it was determined he was tuning his radio at the time of the crash. Charlotte just 16 years old and Judith, 27 years old were killed in the accident and Victoria spent months in intensive care being lucky to survive. She had a broken neck and pelvis with fractures in both her arms and legs.
While in the hospital, Spry continued to threaten the terrified child that she could not speak of the abuse happening at home. She taunted Victoria, telling her she had survived when her biological daughter had not only because she was a child of the devil and the ‘devil looks after his own’. Spry refused physiotherapy for Victoria and forced her to remain in a wheelchair for four years after the accident, beating her whenever she tried to get out. The longer Victoria was in a wheelchair; the longer Spry could claim benefit money for her.
Eunice Spry is a woman most regard as ‘evil’. She showed incredible cruelty and violence to vulnerable children who could do nothing to protect themselves or make it stop. A woman who has shown no remorse for her behaviour and taken no responsibility for the incredible harm she has inflicted. It seems Eunice Spry does not feel she has done anything wrong. It is very difficult to know the true scale of child abuse in the UK. So many cases do not go reported with children suffering within the walls of their homes and no one to help them. A study by the NSPCC spoke with almost 4’000 children and indicates 7% of secondary school-age children reported abuse at home including being ‘hit, kicked, beaten or attacked with a weapon by an adult’, over half of these adults were the child’s own parents.
In 2005 Victoria eventually revealed the horrors within her home and was persuaded by friends to tell the police of the abuse she had been suffering for years at the hands of her foster mother. Christopher and Alloma also agreed to testify against Spry in court, bringing her reign of terror to an end.
No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors and for children, these doors can be prisons in which they have no way out. This case came to light five years after the horrific case of Victoria Climbie, an eight-year-old girl who died in Feb 2000 in Tottenham, North London due to abuse by her aunt, Marie-Terese Kouao and her boyfriend, Carl Manning. Both of whom were both found guilty of her murder. Social workers had not detected the abuse going on within the home, and little information was shared between support and child protection agencies which could have saved this little girls life. Widespread changes were implemented within social care and child protection as a result of the Victoria Climbie Inquiry, however as the case of Eunice Spry demonstrates, not all cases are picked up, and children remain at the mercy of their abusers.
At 62 years old, Eunice Spry was convicted on 20 April 2007 of twenty-six charges of child abuse including actual bodily harm, child cruelty and unlawful wounding. Throughout her trial she maintained her innocence, claiming she was simply raising the children in line with Christian values. She was given a 14-year jail term only for it to be reduced to 12 years by the High Court on appeal.
At the time of Spry’s trial, her foster children understandably did not disclose their identities. However, as her release in 2014 came closer, they courageously spoke out to tell their story. Spry applied to be housed in Worcestershire, just a few miles away from where Victoria lives and had worked so hard to rebuild her life. Victoria launched a petition for the release location to be changed which attracted thousands of signatures in support. After being released into a bail hostel in Birmingham, Eunice Spry was relocated and housed in the Midlands.
In the documentary, Britain’s Darkest Taboos, which featured their story, Spry’s foster children spoke about the abuse they suffered and their feelings towards the woman who caused them so much pain. Christopher Spry added, “She’s ruined my life. She’s a torturous, evil, twisted person, a psycho – and we’re very lucky hasn’t killed someone.”