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A mother and stepfather who kept their starving autistic son locked in a “disgusting” attic bedroom were found guilty of false imprisonment.
Matthew Langley, 22, was “on the verge of death” inside the room covered in vomit and feces, weighing only six stones (39 kg) and severely dehydrated.
Lorna Hewitt, 43, and her husband, Craig Hewitt, denied holding him captive in their Sheffield home for seven months.
But both were found guilty after a trial in the city’s crown court.
The couple, from Walkley Road, were also convicted of causing or allowing a vulnerable adult to suffer serious physical harm.
Following the verdicts, Judge Michael Slater told the defendants that they expected a prison term “of a certain length” when they were sentenced on February 18.
Prosecutor Nicholas Campbell QC said
Prosecutor Nicholas Campbell QC said officers had described “the smell, the overflowing container and the presence of buzzing flies,” and noticed a lock on the bedroom door with a key on the outside.
Langley was in a “sorry state”, unable to walk, with bruises and abrasions suggesting that he had been “crawling on all fours” in his room.
He had suffered an acute kidney injury and his sodium levels were “dangerously” elevated due to deprivation of water and other fluids for some time, the court heard.
His sodium levels were “so high that they could shut down his brain and kill him,” the prosecutor added.
When found by ambulance personnel, Mr. Langley weighed 39 kg. But seven months earlier, on November 7, 2019, he weighed 8.6 pounds (53.6 kg).
He was taken to the hospital and a nurse discovered that he was “all skin and bone, without muscle or fat. His skin was dry and looked dehydrated. He was soaked in urine and covered in feces, both dry and fresh,” they told the jury. .
“The room was in a disgusting state, notably worse than the rest of the house,” Campbell said.
Mr. Campbell told the jury: “It is a matter for you that you may think that as the pressures mounted, they were willing to gamble with their health to be taken off their hands and cared for by others.”
Mr. Hewitt chose not to testify during the trial, but his wife Lorna told the jury that her son stopped staying home because she got tired of going to the care center.
But Campbell claimed that if the respite stays he received had not been canceled, he would never have ended up in the hospital fighting for his life.
Ms. Hewitt said that during the end of Matthew’s time in the nursing home he was not having fun and she assumed he was fed up and wanted to go home and didn’t want to go out as much.
She also said that she had been anxious to leave Matthew alone on a couple of occasions, but that there were no other times when he was left alone and that she tried to make him as safe as possible.
Campbell said the couple had started locking Matthew in his room at night, but Hewitt claimed they had left him downstairs when they left.
The jury found them guilty today after deliberating for a day. The couple will be sentenced at a later date.
Matthew Langley Quicks and Facts
- Lorna Hewitt, 43, and husband Craig, 42, imprisoned her autistic son in an attic
- Matthew Langley, 22, was rescued seven months later from their Sheffield home
- He weighed just six stone and was ‘close to death’ inside the faeces-ridden room
- The couple have been convicted of false imprisonment at Sheffield Crown Court
- They were also found guilty of allowing a vulnerable adult to suffer physical harm