September 2022

Cruel couple reign of terror over children

One cruel couple’s reign of terror saw a girl forced to eat off the floor and another child’s head bashed into a cupboard.

Lorna and Christopher Dennington were both found guilty after being put on trial accused of a string of cruel crimes against three different children in care

The 47-year-old Lorna was said to have inflicted cruel punishments and repeatedly slapped three children in her care. Her victims, who are now adults, added that her husband did nothing to intervene

The mum was accused of repeatedly slamming the head of a boy into a cupboard and her husband was said to have drained the trust fund belonging to another child – taking over £50,000 from him.

On Tuesday, prosecutor Michael Morley told Teesside Crown Court that the mother repeatedly hit the children if they didn’t complete their chores to her standards.

She even made one girl who couldn’t finish her dinner eat it off the floor after she was sick.

The three victims, who were placed in the care of the Dennington’s over the last 20 years, endured endless violence the court heard.

When one boy arrived home with wet trousers after playing in a river, Lorna Dennington was so angry she pushed him into a bath and ran the shower head in his face saying: “If you want to be in a river, try this!”

The court heard that the boy struggled to breathe while the water was sprayed at him. She later threw a baseball at him.

A young girl in her care was dragged out of her bunk bed by her hair by Lorna Dennington, who then pulled her by the hair all the way down the stairs because she had got her hair cut when visiting her mother. She was pushed into the bath and slapped.

Another cruelty they inflicted on the children was giving them plaque tablets and if stains showed after they brushed their teeth they were scrubbed until their gums bled.

Mr Morley said that Lorna Dennington used an abrasive kitchen pad on the children at bath time and Christopher Dennington, 50, hit one boy on the leg and threatened to kill him.

After one boy came home late from school Lorna Dennington smashed his head into a cupboard four times and she also waved a knife in the face of a girl who refused to eat dinner.

When the girl grew up and became a teenager, Lorna Dennington humiliated her by checking her underwear for stains from her period. If she found any she would slap her.

The victim told police that Dennington ridiculed her and called her fat in front of other children.

Lorna and Christopher Dennington, of Bedford Street in Darlington, both pleaded guilty to three counts of child cruelty. Christopher Dennington also admitted one count of fraud.

Mr Morley told the court that Christopher Dennington opened a Santander bank account to keep one of the children’s trust fund money in. The boy’s father had died and had left him £58,000 – but Dennington was found to have spent all but £1,000.

The court heard that he used the account to pay for shopping; but Dennnington disputed this saying he used the money to buy the boy things he needed for his bedroom. While he admitted fraud, Dennington also insisted that the boy had agreed to the spending.

In heartbreaking statements, the three victims, who all left the Dennington’s home as soon as they were old enough, told of a childhood filled with abuse.

One victim said she was left feeling sick, after a security man at court accidently directed her to one of the landings, where she came face-to-face with the couple: “I turned and ran. I was shaking in the witness room. This sums up how frightened of Lorna I am.”

The second victim said that he had planned to use his trust fund to buy himself a home: “I am gutted that the money left to me by my dad has gone. I wanted to buy a house with it.

“My time living with Lorna and Christopher has deeply affected me. I suffer from mood swings. If anybody near me raises a hand I automatically flinch.”

The third victim said that she was suicidal by the age of 17 and suffers from an eating disorder; as well as post traumatic stress disorder, caused by child trauma: ” A couple of months ago I did attempt suicide and that was because of what they did to me.

“They made me feel as though I was the problem. The police and the social services, they took me back to them when I ran away. My childhood was spent frightened of what horrible things would happen to me next.”

Judge Jeremy Barnett told the couple: “The children described a household where they would be punished, slapped and suffer degrading behaviour. You still deny some of the incidents.

“Christopher Dennington basically stood back and watched it and allowed it to happen. One victim has spoken of how he didn’t enjoy his childhood. Another has felt suicidal.

Christopher Dennington, you dipped into one of the victim’s trust fund as and when it suited you. Even now you are saying he wanted to feather his own nest- his bedroom. He feels that his money was his passport to a new life and you’ve taken this from him.

“But Lorna Dennington was the prime mover in this callous behaviour.”

Lorna Dennnington collapsed in tears as she, and her husband, were handed 12-month prison terms.