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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 19:39 GMT
Parents kept children in squalor
Sarah Whittaker and David Askew
Social services were not investigating the parents
A doctor who treated twins taken from a Sheffield house said they suffered "the worse case of malnutrition he had ever seen outside the developing world."

A judge was told how police officers who brought five children out of the house had difficulty not being sick.

The 12-month-old twin boys were both seriously ill.

On Tuesday the children's parents, David Askew and Sarah Whittaker, both 24, were each jailed for seven years after admitting five counts of cruelty.

The reality is that behind the closed doors of your home your children were being slowly starved to death

Judge Alan Goldsack
Sheffield Crown Court was told officers were astonished to find a neatly-kept lounge, filled with state-of-the art electrical appliances.

The children's plight was discovered when Whittaker phoned for an ambulance in June because one of the twins was "lifeless".

The youngster was taken to hospital with his brother where he was put on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.

Andrew Hatton, prosecuting, said the boy was suffering from hypothermia, hypoglycaemia (deficiency of glucose in the bloodstream) and was badly malnourished.

"One doctor said it was the worse case of malnutrition he had ever come across in the UK or outside of the developing world," he added.

The other children in house - now aged eight, four and three - were also living in terrible conditions.

One of the bedrooms
The bedroom floors were smeared with human and animal excrement

But in the living room the officers found a large TV, two DVD players, a Sony PlayStation and stereo as well as DVDs, video games and CDs.

Sentencing the pair, the Recorder of Sheffield Alan Goldsack said: "The reality is that behind the closed doors of your home your children were being slowly starved to death."

Lawyers for both defendants conceded they failed as parents but did not act out of any sadism.

The children are now in local authority care. The court heard all five are now thriving, although one of the twins may have sight and hearing problems.

Social services had never been called to deal with the family.

Alan Jones, chair of the Sheffield Area Child Protection Committee, said lessons would be learned following the case.

"A serious case review is currently under way by an independent senior health manager who will look at the roles of all the agencies involved in this case."

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