Mother Locks Up Autistic Son in Loft, Nearly Starves Him to Death

A mother and stepfather who kept their autistic son locked in a loft and starved him until he was days from death have been found guilty of false imprisonment and neglect.

Following a trial at Sheffield Crown Court, England, on Wednesday, Lorna Hewitt, 43, was convicted along with her husband Craig Hewitt, 42.

The trial jury also found the couple, of Walkley Road, Sheffield, northern England, neglected their 22-year-old son, Matthew Langley, for a seven-month period between November, 2019, to June, 2020.

Langley was found by paramedics following an emergency 999 call in the early hours of June 2, 2020. Despite being six feet tall, he only weighed six stone, the court heard. He was also severely dehydrated.

The locked loft room was found to be covered in rubbish, human faeces, and vomit. Food had been delivered to the man in a box.

Prosecutor Nicholas Campbell QC said Langley was in a "pitiable state", unable to walk, with bruises and abrasions suggesting he had been "crawling on all fours" in his room.

Langley's fingernails and toenails were so long they were causing him pain, the court heard. His hair was long and unkempt and his teeth were badly stained with orange plaque.

He also suffered an acute injury to his kidney and his sodium levels were "dangerously" elevated after being deprived of water and other liquids for a long time.

The 22-year-old's sodium levels were "so high that they could shut his brain down and kill him," added the prosecutor.

Health officials said he must have been fed only a few hundred calories a day over the period of months and believe he was just a few days from death when he was found.

Langley was then taken to hospital and a nurse described him as "all skin and bone, lacking muscle and fat. His skin was dry and appeared dehydrated. He was soaked in urine and was covered in faeces, both dry and fresh," the court heard.

Temporary Detective Sergeant Susannah Taylor, from South Yorkshire's Protecting Vulnerable People Team, said: "This was an horrific case in which the victim could well have lost his life as his organs were shutting down.

"He had to be placed into intensive care in a life-threatening condition. Thankfully he has since made a full recovery and is now getting the support and care he needs."

Judge Michael Slater denied the couple bail. The judge told Lorna and Craig Hewitt to expect a prison term of "some length", and that they would be sentenced on 18 February.

Stock police tape pic
A stock photo of police tape. A mother and stepfather in Britain who kept their autistic son locked in a loft and starved him until he was days from death has been found guilty of false imprisonment and neglect. Getty