Paedophile who tortured, raped and starved children with partner found dead in prison cell

A man found guilty of an horrific catalogue of abuse against children has been found dead in his prison cell while he awaited sentence. 

Andrew Hadwin, 39, was found dead at HMP Durham prison yesterday, February 2. 

Hadwin and his partner Cheryl Pickles tormented children over several years – starving them, feeding them soap and pushing them into boiling hot showers and baths.

The couple malnourished the children until they were so hungry that they walked for miles to scavenge through supermarket bins for food. Meanwhile the pair would order takeaways and make the children watch them eat while forced to stand in stress positions for long periods of time.

Other abuse included locking the youngsters in a cupboard and dangling one terrified child over a motorway bridge.

The Department of Justice confirmed Hadwin had died, telling MailOnline an investigation was underway. 

Hadwin was convicted of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one count of perverting the course of justice. He was found not guilty of one count of sexual activity with a child

Cheryl Pickles, 35, and Andrew Hadwin, 39, of Fishburn, County Durham, tormented children by starving them, feeding them soap and pushing them into boiling hot showers

Cheryl Pickles, 35, and Andrew Hadwin, 39, of Fishburn, County Durham, tormented children by starving them, feeding them soap and pushing them into boiling hot showers

A Department of Justice spokesman said: ‘HMP Durham prisoner Andrew Hadwin died on 2 February. 

‘As with all deaths in custody, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will investigate.’

Neighbours had described the couple as ‘creepy and furtive’ and said they would stop their children from playing outside when they saw them, adding they used to hear ‘all sorts of strange noises coming from their home’.

Both Hadwin and Pickles had been remanded in custody ahead of a sentencing hearing scheduled for April 28.

The pair were charged with multiple offences of child neglect and sexual activity with a child, and one count of perverting the course of justice. 

Hadwin was also charged with three counts of rape in relation to historic abuse of another child which happened when she was a little girl.

On January 18 he was found guilty of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one count of perverting the course of justice.

He was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.

Hadwin and Pickles, of Fishburn, County Durham, were convicted of a prolonged campaign of child abuse by a jury at Teesside Crown Court after a lengthy trial.

During the proceedings, jurors heard of the horrific abuse committed by the pair, including dangling one terrified child over a motorway bridge.

Hadwin and Pickles abused one child so badly they suffered life-limiting injuries, and regularly starved children or forced them into scaldingly-hot showers and baths.

During the trial, the court heard from medical experts who described how the children regularly suffered painful injuries. 

They also heard how the pair wrote letters, which were given to police, claiming to be from the children in which they apologised for lying and were sorry, and made false allegations of sexual assault by professionals supporting them.

However, a handwriting expert confirmed the writing was not that of a child, and found the letters had actually been written in a notebook found at the couple’s home. 

The campaign of abuse only stopped when one of the children bravely plucked up the courage to tell a trusted adult what was happening. 

On social media, where Hadwin has at least six different accounts, the couple acted as a happy family. Pickles was active on her social media accounts as recently as January 7, with recent posts wishing her friends a happy new year.

After three days of deliberations, the jury found Hadwin guilty of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one count of perverting the course of justice. He was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.

Pickles was found guilty of five counts of child cruelty and one of perverting the course of justice. She was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.

Prior to conviction, local residents of Fishburn were aware of the rape charges and mothers would bring their children in from playing in their front gardens while he sat smoking out of a bedroom window.

A neighbour said: ‘He was known to be a sex offender which was disturbing to all the families with young children around here.

The couple's home in Fishburn, County Durham

The couple’s home in Fishburn, County Durham

‘They must have lived here for five years but there were never any children at the house as far as anyone knew.

‘The details of the case are horrifying and to think that pair had access to kids is frightening.

‘They were creepy and furtive, they’d scuttle to and from their car in the morning, leave for the day and then come back at night, no one knew where they went.

‘There would be all sorts of strange noises coming from their home and they’d have a steady stream of odd-looking visitors, I dread to think what was going on in there.’

Another neighbour said: ‘[Hadwin] walked with a white stick as if he was registered blind and would use it to get to his car and then drive away in it.

‘The police were frequent visitors and people knew of his past. I hope they get locked up for a long, long time. We never want to see them back here again.’

Denying all charges against them, the couple forced jurors to endure harrowing accounts of child abuse during a seven-week trial at Teesside Crown Court.

The couple were convicted of a prolonged campaign of child abuse by a jury at Teesside Crown Court after a lengthy trial

The couple were convicted of a prolonged campaign of child abuse by a jury at Teesside Crown Court after a lengthy trial

During the proceedings, the court heard of the horrific campaign of abuse committed by the pair, including dangling one terrified child over a motorway bridge. 

The abuse came to light in 2018 when one of the children bravely disclosed what had happened to a trusted adult.

An investigation by Durham Constabulary was launched.

During the inquiry, which spanned four years and involved more than 150 witnesses, detectives found that Hadwin and Pickles repeatedly abused the children by making them eat soap, locking them in cupboards, forcing them into boiling hot showers and baths – sometimes submerging their heads under the water – and withholding access to food.

The children would often have to scavenge for scraps to eat, and on one occasion were found at 4am walking alone to a supermarket four miles away in search of food.

Cheryl Pickles was found guilty of five counts of child cruelty and one of perverting the course of justice. She was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child

Cheryl Pickles was found guilty of five counts of child cruelty and one of perverting the course of justice. She was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child

At Teesside Crown Court, the couple were found guilty of multiple counts of abuse and were warned they face lengthy jail terms ahead of sentencing on April 28

At Teesside Crown Court, the couple were found guilty of multiple counts of abuse and were warned they face lengthy jail terms ahead of sentencing on April 28

Cheryl Pickles and Anthony Hadwin were convicted for abusing and neglecting children, forcing them to eat soap and scavenge for scraps after a seven-week trial at Teesside Crown Court

Cheryl Pickles and Anthony Hadwin were convicted for abusing and neglecting children, forcing them to eat soap and scavenge for scraps after a seven-week trial at Teesside Crown Court

The pair would also order takeaways and make the children watch them eat while they were forced to stand in stress positions for long periods of time.

During the trial, the court heard from medical experts who described how the children regularly suffered painful injuries. One child was left with life-limiting injuries as a result of the abuse.

They also heard that when police became involved, Hadwin and Pickles flew into a panic and forged letters, which they pretended had been written by children.

The letters, written in a childish scrawl, said: ‘We are sorry, we told lies,’ and went on to explain that they had made up the allegations against the pair.

The letters were then revealed as fakes by a handwriting expert.

However, a handwriting expert confirmed the writing was not that of a child, and found the letters had actually been written in a notebook found at the couple’s home.

After three days of deliberations, the jury found Hadwin guilty of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one count of perverting the course of justice. 

He was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.

Pickles was found guilty of five counts of child cruelty and one of perverting the course of justice.

She was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.

The pair were remanded in custody to be sentenced on Friday, April 28, at the same court and were told to expect lengthy prison terms. 

After the verdict, Detective Inspector Tonya Cook, who led the investigation, said: ‘This was a distressing case in which all witnesses, partners and the police have shown high levels of professionalism to ensure justice is achieved for these children.

‘It has also shown the commitment by Durham Constabulary to keeping those in our communities safe and to fully hear the voices of children when speaking up against those around them.’

Detective Constable Kat Pudney, of Durham Constabulary’s Safeguarding Unit, the investigating officer, said: ‘This was an extremely complex and distressing investigation for all involved, the likes of which I have never encountered during my time as a police officer.

‘Hadwin and Pickles subjected several vulnerable children to multiple forms of abuse, robbing them of their childhood, and undoubtedly leaving them with psychological wounds which they may never truly recover from.

‘I want to highlight how incredibly brave these children have been throughout this lengthy investigation – their strength to stand up to their abusers must be commended.

‘One of Hadwin’s victims is now a young woman. She has shown incredible bravery in reliving her ordeal many years later. I hope she finds some comfort that her attacker has now been convicted and remanded.

‘Hadwin and Pickles have lied to police and other professionals, and attempted to blame others throughout this investigation, in an attempt to divert the attention away from themselves.

‘I am delighted that the jury have returned these verdicts, ultimately protecting further children from falling victim to their manipulative and abhorrent behaviour.

‘I hope this result will allow the children to close this chapter of their lives and start their healing journey.’

She added: ‘The safeguarding and wellbeing of children is everyone’s business – all children deserve to be safe, protected and loved.

‘If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, please speak out. Your actions could save a life.’

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