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CHARGES OF GROSS ILLTREATMENT., Issue 7989, 19 August 1889
CHARGES OF GROSS ILLTREATMENT.
—- ■ • A TEKED’-LE '.CALK OF -SUFFERING, HOW SOME CHILDREN ARE “HOARDED OUT.” 1 CHRISTCHURCH. August 19. | At the Police Court to-day the man Abbott and his wife, charged with illtrenting and starving the child Esther Powditch, were brought up on remand. A gr'at crowd gathered in and around the Court, and the prisoners would probably have been booted, if not actually hustled, but that the police had taken precautions and conveyed them very early to the Court. The child Powditch was also present. During the week which has elapsed since the case was discovered she has wonderfully altered in her appearance. In spite of the great improvement, however, due to good food and care, one witness, who had been accustomed to see her every day up to the time that she went to the Abbotts’, swore that he had much difficulty in recognising her. According to his graphic, if somewhat col loquial, version of the case, the child now looks “ a regular old woman and knocked all to pieces.” Godfrey, who originally adopted the child, deposed that she was always strong and healthy and of a lively disposition. He and Abbott had a mutual written agreement when the latter took charge of her. Two months ago Abbott wrote saying that he wished him to take the child back again, but he considered a bargain onoe made was made for ever, and threw the letter into the fire and took no further notice of his request. Adam Hluor, the same witness who had been hardly able to recognise Esther, said that for some time he had suspected Abbott of keeping the child a prisoner in his house, as he never saw her playing with accused s children us formerly. Esther Powditch, RU years of age, swore that since the Abbotts removed to their last dwelling-place she had been constantly maltreated and starved. She had been kept for as much as three days without food as a punishment for not getting on quickly with her work iu the morning. Her work consisted of nursing the children, scrubbing, washing, and cleaning the stove. Her food was generally wheaten meal, sometimes with milk, but often without. She had never had bread and butter, tea, vegetables, pudding, or meat. When kept without food Mrs Abbott tied her up, sometimes twice a week, in a locked room, while Mr Abbott, who knew nothing of this, was away at work. She was beaten nearly every day by Mrs Abbott with a stick for being slow at her work. Mr Abbot himself never illtreated her, but once ho threatened her, saying “If I once lift my hand to you yon will never complain again ”; also that he knew the sort of food on which she lived, though ignorant of the beatings and tying up. In trying to tell the story of how she made her escape to some neighbors named Wyatt, to obtain food, after three days’ starving, the child became dazed ; and when describing how the woman Abbott, on her return, plunged her head into a bucket of water, and kept her there, she burst out crying. This piece of cruelty also took place during the absence of Mr Abbott; and he was also out of the way, according to the child, when his wife pulled handfuls of hair out of her scalp. _ Mr Fisher’s cross-examination of the witness did very little to shake her evidence in chief ; in fact, up to the adjournment of the Court, the principal now fact elicited was that at times when the Abbotts had visitors they gave her the same kind of food as they ato themselves. An attempt was made to show that the hair came out through disease, uud that the bruises were the result of falls, but this was unsuccessful. An admission was also got from the poor little creature, who burst out crying from time to time, that she had stolen a plateful of cakes and some pickles and eaten them, as she had a packet of pinny msvjnii seeds, because she was starving. After the luncheon adjournment, Mrs Wyatt, a neighbor of the Abbotts, to whom the child Powditch had fled for food, told how Esther had come to her for food, thin and starved-looking, and eaten ravenously ; how she took her back, and told the Abbotts that she looked more like a ghost than a living being ; how she offered to take her away; and how next morning, when she went to the house again, she heard Mrs j Abbott scolding and saying that the child ought to be scourged and burnt for running away and telling lies to her (Mrs Wyatt). An immense crowd surrounded the Court to catch a glimpse of the child as she was taken away to the hospital.
CHARGES OF GROSS ILLTREATMENT., Issue 7989, 19 August 1889
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