(Update 7:25 p.m.): London, Ont. - A square meal and a first-ever trip to school: that’s all that the boy rescued from “squalid” conditions in London Thursday (May 29) wants.
At a news conference on Friday (May 30) at 3 p.m. Children's Aid Society of London and Middlesex (CAS) and London police provided more details about the “horrific” case of a 10-year-old boy locked in a bedroom for at least 18 months, fed only fast food twice a day and never brought to school.
Police said there is some evidence the boy was brought outside the house “briefly” in 2013.
Placed in the care of his aunt and uncle in London in 2010, the boy wasn’t born in Canada, speaks “some English” and has never been to school. His parents are out of the country and police said they haven’t been in contact with them yet. The aunt and uncle were his legal guardians.
Child welfare officials also removed a biological child of the couple, who are now in police custody and charged with forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessities of life, from the home.
That nine-year-old girl does go to school and had apparently never been locked in a room in the house.
Brought to hospital, the boy was diagnosed as underweight and suffering from malnutrition. There was an ensuite bathroom off the bedroom with a shower and toilet but the condition of the room and the entire house was “squalid,” according to police.
Det. Insp. Kevin Heslop called it a “horrific” case while CAS executive director Jane Fitzgerald said her staff is “overjoyed” they were able to rescue two children from such abuse and place them in foster care where they are “settling in well.”
Police aren’t releasing any information about the accused, the child or his country of origin to protect his identity.
Fitzgerald said the CAS had contact with a now-adult child related to one of the accused in 2007. She said there was a brief investigation and the file was closed.
She said a tip from a member of the public led CAS officials to investigate and that this person is to be commended for notifying them.
“If anyone in our community has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection, please call us,” Fitzgerald said. “We know it is not an easy call to make, but it can save the life of a child.”
When an investigator arrived at the home at 2421 Asima Drive, off Jackson Road in south London, on Thursday there apparently no one in the house but they could see a silhouette behind a curtain in one of the windows.
They called London police who made contact with the now-accused homeowners, who returned and let them into the house.
When CAS and police entered, they walked into an “extraordinary” scene with fast food wrappers and other garbage strewn throughout the house. The boy’s room, where they estimate he was held for at least 18 and up to 24 months, was rank with feces, his mattress and pajamas “soaked” in urine.
Fitzgerald said the boy was scared and confused when officials found him. When asked what he wants the boy said he wants better nutrition and to go to school, which she called a “good sign.”
“It shows he wants to re-enter the world.”
Sitting in his garage watching the media frenzy as out-of-town reporters prepared for their live 6 p.m. hits from the scene, next-door neighbour Daniel Wlodarczyk said he hadn’t seen either adult or child in the family since last summer when the convenience store they ran near the former Rona off Commissioners Road East shut down.
“They disappeared after that.”
He said they are of Asian descent.
He questioned the claim by police that though the boy hadn’t gone to school, the girl had. He recalled seeing the girl in the window at around noon one weekday while he was out barbecuing.
His mom, who wished not to be named, said she used to talk to the man when they first moved in four and a half years ago, but not the woman, who looked so “mean” all the time she told her kids to stay away from them.
She said she thought the boy was visiting because she saw him once last summer, when the couple bought a swing set/jungle gym for the unfenced back yard, then never again. She added one of her other children told her at one point “that little girl is locked in the house all the time.”
“The little girl used to try to wave at me but the woman would always yell at her,” she said. “She was always so mean all the time.”