Girl’s years of ter­ror

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - JONO GALUSZKA

The neigh­bours would hear it all day and night, echo­ing through their ru­ral cul-de­sac.

It started as soon as he came home, toot­ing the horn in the drive­way, then swear­ing at his step­daugh­ter to open the gate for him.

Soon, he would be yelling about the an­i­mals. Or the wash­ing. Or the mess her brother had made.

One neigh­bour broke down try­ing to de­scribe it, mar­vel­ling at how he was able to yell for hours on end at the teenage girl.

‘‘It came from a place of real anger,’’ she said. ‘‘It was just so ag­gres­sive.’’ As the evening went on, his anger grew into acts of vi­o­lence.

His steel-capped boots kicked her hips and legs. A rolling pin was bro­ken on her back. A towel rail was swung her way again and again.

A meat ten­deriser was hit against her toes as she was forced to hold full buck­ets with her arms out­stretched.

He once threw her so hard she broke her foot. She com­plied with his re­quest to lie to med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and any­one who asked her about it.

All the while the girl’s mother stood by, silent about the abuse in­flicted on her own daugh­ter for five years.

The pair were found guilty in the Palmer­ston North District Court on Mon­day of ne­glect­ing the girl from 2011 to 2016, while the step­fa­ther was found guilty of as­sault­ing her mul­ti­ple times.

The par­ents tried to paint the girl as a liar, tak­ing con­cepts she had gleaned from tele­vi­sion shows to in­vent a means to get away from her par­ents be­cause she wanted to con­tinue a re­la­tion­ship they did not ap­prove of.

But in re­al­ity, the par­ents treated her ‘‘more like a slave’’ than a child, Crown pros­e­cu­tor Karl van der Plas said.

The court heard the work would start for her im­me­di­ately early in the morn­ing, af­ter a rest­less night sleep­ing in the same bed as her tod­dler brother.

She was made to care for him like her own son, of­ten seen by neigh­bours hold­ing him on her hip when­ever she was home.

Lunch had to be pre­pared for her step­fa­ther, dishes had to be done, a small menagerie of an­i­mals had to be fed and wa­tered – all be­fore she trudged off to school.

Teach­ers said she of­ten lacked lunch, wore filthy clothes and had hy­giene is­sues. One said she was anx­ious to get home im­me­di­ately af­ter school and dur­ing lunch breaks, as if she would be in trouble if she played with class­mates.

Oth­ers in the Horowhenua and Manawatu¯ com­mu­ni­ties she lived in no­ticed she would be seen walk­ing to school bare­foot with no warm cloth­ing or jacket, de­spite it pour­ing with rain and the tem­per­a­ture drop­ping as low as 2 de­grees Cel­sius.

Schools and neigh­bours gave her new clothes to wear. She was once given a new cardi­gan by a rel­a­tive. She said they were all cut up by her par­ents.

Peo­ple also re­mem­ber the smell. One woman said it was so strong she sub­tly tried to put per­fume on the girl to mask the uric tang.

She was straight back into work as soon as she got home. Back to the an­i­mals, to her brother, to the house of Dick­en­sian hor­ror.

But the abuse was not en­tirely hid­den. Neigh­bours saw her slav­ing away in the yard day af­ter day. They saw her be­ing screamed at, eye­ball to eye­ball with her step­fa­ther. They heard it con­tinue into the night.

One neigh­bour told the court the scream­ing was a reg­u­lar sound­track for her fam­ily’s din­ners. It soon be­came a con­stant topic of con­ver­sa­tion.

‘‘My husband and chil­dren, we would sit there and talk about it, es­pe­cially at din­ner time.

‘‘It be­came part of our life, lis­ten­ing to it. My kids are still re­ally emo­tional about it.’’

She did noth­ing un­til her daugh­ter told her to ‘‘help that lit­tle girl’’. Other neigh­bours did noth­ing. The girl was left to suf­fer in that house of hor­ror un­til one day, when it all be­came too much, she ran away from home and spilled her story to an adult she knew – that home was no home to her at all.

The par­ents will be sen­tenced in Jan­uary.

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