Foster mum who tortured young children by forcing them to eat vomit jailed

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Rachel Lessels, 72, was sentenced to 14 months behind bars after being found unanimously guilty by a jury of five charges of cruelty and child assault

Rachel Lessels was sentenced to 14 months in jail at Dundee Sheriff Court
Rachel Lessels, 72, tortured young children by forcing them to eat vomit

A foster mother who tortured young children by forcing them to eat vomit has jailed.

Rachel Lessels cried in court as she was sentenced to 14 months behind bars after being found unanimously guilty by a jury.

The court ruled that she had committed sustained cruelty against children in her care for over three years.

During the trial, the jury heard that Lessels’s victims suffered from long-term trauma as a result of her cruelty, and she was found guilty of five charges of cruelty and child assault.

The charges relate to two victims who were children at the time of the abuse, the Daily Record reports.

Sheriff Paul Brown said: “These are grave offences against defenceless children who were in your care.

“There was a high degree of culpability. You were in a position of trust with professional responsibility over your victims.

Rachel Lessels would force fed the children in her care with their vomit

“This was over a prolonged period and there were multiple incidents of serious cruelty.

“I note the harm caused to both witnesses, and from their evidence it was clear they are still emotionally impacted by your offending. There is no alternative to prison.”

The victims told the jury at Dundee Sheriff Court that they had been subjected to horrendous acts of sickening cruelty while in her care.

During the three-day trial, one boy, 18, said that she forced him to eat his own vomit after he had thrown up his food.

He said: “I was eating a bowl of porridge. I threw it back up into the bowl. I don’t know why I threw it up but Rachel told me I had to eat it.

“I was crying and then Rachel took out this leaflet saying that the social work would take me away if I didn’t eat it.”

He was asked by fiscal depute Marie Lyons why he had gone through with the disgusting act of eating his vomit, to which he replied: “I was scared.”

The teenager, was under the care of Lessels, 72 in her home in Letham, Fife, explained to jury that he was forced to watch as she physically abused another child.

He said: “I remember one time she dug her nails into his skin and ear. She had really long, pointy nails and dug them into his arms and his ear.”

Another victim told the court of a chilling incident where she held his head under water so he could not breath.

He described the abuse as “absolutely terrifying.”

During the trial, it was also revealed that Lessels shoved a soiled nappy in a seven-year-old boy’s face.

The court heard how the incidents came to light after one of the boy’s revealed what had been going on during a discussion with a school psychologist.

One victim told the trial Lessels had hurt him by pulling his testicles, forced his head into a cupboard and made him walk naked outdoors to her car.

Lessels was found guilty of wilfully ill-treating a boy on various occasions by shouting at him and forcing him to stand for long periods.

She was found guilty of attacking the same boy by seizing his head and force-feeding him vomit with a fork.

The jury also found her guilty of force-feeding vomit to a second boy. She made this child stand for long periods and acted aggressively towards him.

She was found guilty of attacking the same boy by seizing his neck and arms.

Lessels was also found guilty of cruelty towards his brother by forcing him to stand for long periods of time in the summer.

The court was told that Lessels had been a foster carer to more than 50 children at her home in Fife between the mid-2000s and 2017 when the allegations were first reported.

Defence counsel Mark Moir QC highlighted excerpts from social work reports which noted the children were happy and making good progress with Lessels.

Lessels told the trial she had “loved” looking after children but was happier with young babies than older children.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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