Mother and stepfather jailed for six years for locking up and starving autistic son


Show caption The judge found Lorna and Craig Hewitt had ‘effectively turned off’ Matthew Langley’s care and locked him up for seven months. Photograph: Universal News and Sport (Scotland)/SYP/Unpix Sheffield Mother and stepfather jailed for six years for locking up and starving autistic son Matthew Langley was said to be days away from death when he was found Jessica Murray Fri 18 Feb 2022 18.08 GMT Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share via Email

A mother and stepfather have been sentenced to six years in prison for locking up and starving their autistic son in a room of “abject squalor and filth” for seven months.

Matthew Langley, 22, was “days away from death” when he was found in June 2020 weighing just 6st 2lb (39kg). Lorna Hewitt, 43, and her husband, Craig Hewitt, 42, were found guilty of false imprisonment and causing or allowing a vulnerable adult to suffer serious physical harm at Sheffield crown court last month.

The trial heard Langley had learning difficulties and suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, double-incontinence and arthritis.

Photos show the attic bedroom in which he was kept captive was covered in piles of rubbish, and soiled with vomit and faeces, which had attracted flies. Police said they found the key on the outside of the door.

Passing sentence, Judge Michael Slater said A&E staff had to take the “unprecedented” step of washing Langley when he arrived at the hospital.

The court was told the couple had been trying to have Langley “taken off their hands”, and had prevented him from attending college as well as cancelling a string of medical appointments in the seven months in which they kept him locked in the room.

“This was a grave abuse of trust by a mother to her son,” Judge Slater said, adding that the pair had “effectively turned off” Langley’s care in November 2019.

“You were the primary carer for Matthew, with his challenges and difficulties, and it makes it all the more inexplicable that for those seven months you failed to provide him with the support and provision of food and drink that he craved and needed.”

He added that Langley had likely spent a “long seven months experiencing feelings of anxiety, confusion, hunger and loneliness”.

He praised staff at Northern General hospital for their efforts to save Langley, who “looked doomed not to survive” when he was admitted.

He was treated for severe malnourishment and dehydration, with one expert dietician at the hospital telling the court it was the most severe malnourishment case he had seen.

Langley had suffered kidney damage due to high sodium levels caused by severe dehydration, and also had a number of skin abrasions that suggested he had been crawling around on all fours.

The court was told Langley made a full physical recovery by August 2020, but the psychological impact of the abuse had not been ascertained.

{{topLeft}} {{bottomLeft}} {{topRight}} {{bottomRight}} {{/goalExceededMarkerPercentage}} {{#goalExceededMarkerPercentage}}{{/goalExceededMarkerPercentage}} {{heading}} {{#paragraphs}} {{#ticker}}{{/ticker}}{{#paragraphs}} {{.}} {{/paragraphs}} {{highlightedText}}


Single Monthly Annual

Other {{#cta}} {{text}} {{/cta}} Email address Please enter a valid email address Please enter your email address Set a reminder Sorry we couldn’t set a reminder for you this time. Please try again later. . To find out what personal data we collect and how we use it, view our We will send you a maximum of two emails in. To find out what personal data we collect and how we use it, view our Privacy Policy . If you have any questions about contributing, please We will be in touch to remind you to contribute. Look out for a message in your inbox in. If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us {{/paragraphs}}{{#choiceCards}}{{/choiceCards}}