Attic room where autistic son was imprisoned by mother and stepfather

Squalor of autistic son’s attic prison: Shocking image shows rubbish strewn room covered in faeces and vomit where 22-year-old was found ‘close to death’ after being held captive by his mother and stepfather

  • Matthew Langley was found locked up in the attic of his mother’s Sheffield home
  • His bones were visible through his skin and he was weighing just six stone (39kg)
  • Lorna Hewitt and husband Craig Hewitt were found guilty of false imprisonment
  • They were also found guilty of allowing a vulnerable adult to suffer physical harm
  • South Yorkshire Police released photograph to show conditions inside the room

This shocking image shows the rubbish strewn room, which is covered in faeces and vomit, where an autistic 22-year-old man was held captive by his mother and stepfather. 

Matthew Langley, 22, was so malnourished his bones were visible through his skin after being left locked up and neglected by Craig and Lorna Hewitt, 43, for seven months.

The pair were last week found guilty of false imprisonment after Sheffield Crown Court heard Matthew was found severely dehydrated and weighing just six stone (39kg) when he was finally rescued from the vomit and faeces-ridden room.

South Yorkshire Police have now released the grim photograph showing piles of rubbish and soiled items.

It lays bare the shocking squalor that Matthew had been held in by the Hewitts, who kept the door locked.

South Yorkshire Police have released this grim photograph showing the rubbish strewn room, covered in faeces and vomit, where an autistic 22-year-old man was held captive by his mother and stepfather

Lorna Hewitt, 43, and husband Craig, 42, kept her autistic son Matthew Langley, 22, malnourished and locked up in an attic bedroom of their Sheffield home for seven months

The court heard police found faeces and vomit over the floor and bedding, along with buzzing flies, a bad smell and a key on the outside of the door.

The National Autistic Society said the scene was ‘deeply disturbing’.

Jurors heard Matthew was found by paramedics seriously underweight, dehydrated and ‘with his life hanging in the balance’ on June 2, 2020.

Nicholas Campbell QC, prosecuting, told the trial the ambulance service was called to the home in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, in the early hours of June 2, 2020.

Matthew was rushed to a hospital intensive care unit in a ‘pitiable state’ with abrasions indicating he had been moving around on all fours, the prosecutor told the court.

He had suffered damage to a kidney with high sodium levels relating to severe dehydration, it was heard.

Mr Campbell added: ‘His sodium levels were dangerously high. They measured 180. They were so high they could shut down his brain and kill him. Anything above 145, there is a real chance of death.

‘The Home Office pathologist examined the injuries and said the abrasions and bruises were consistent in his view with Matthew having been crawling on all fours over objects in his path.’

Matthew, who also had learning difficulties, suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, double incontinence and arthritis, the court heard. 

Seven months before he was found, in November, 2019, weighing 39kg, he had weighed 53.6kg (8st 7lbs), the court heard. 

Mr Campbell said Matthew made a good physical recovery thanks to the hard work of medical professionals and when he was discharged from hospital he weighed 55kg.

Craig Hewitt told police his wife Lorna had found Matthew upstairs lying on the floor and he claimed Matthew had been fed and that he ate in his room, the court heard.

He also claimed there had been locks on the internal doors because their home used to be a student accommodation.

Mr Hewitt stated to police that his stepson Matthew had only been locked in at night because he would go downstairs and set off security alarms.

Lorna Hewitt chose to give ‘no comment’ answers to all questions asked by the police, the court heard.

At Sheffield Crown Court last week, the couple were both found guilty of allowing serious injury to a vulnerable adult and false imprisonment. They will be sentenced next month

Mr Hewitt chose not to give evidence during the trial but his wife Lorna told the jury her son stopped having respite stay-overs because he became fed up with going to the care centre.

But Mr Campbell claimed if they had not cancelled the respite care stays he received he would never have ended up in hospital fighting for his life.

Mrs Hewitt said during the end of Matthew’s time at the care home he was not enjoying himself and she assumed he was getting fed up and wanted to come home and he did not want to go out as much.

She also said she had been anxious leaving Matthew alone on a couple of occasions but there were no other times when he was left alone and she tried to make him as safe as she could.

Mr Campbell said the couple had started locking Matthew in his room at night but Mrs Hewitt claimed he had been left downstairs when they went out.

The Hewitts, of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, were also found guilty of causing or allowing a vulnerable adult to suffer serious physical harm.

They are due to be sentenced on February 18. 

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