A SADISTIC Carlisle stepfather who made two children beg for food and forced them into ice-cold baths was charged with subjecting their mother to ‘controlling and coercive" behaviour.

Gary Martin Davies, 37, whose criminal history includes several offences of serious violence, denied controlling the woman. But he admitted two counts of cruelty against her children.

At Carlisle Crown Court last week, a judge heard a disturbing account of how Davies subjected his girlfriend's two children - a boy and a girl of primary school age - to months of cruelty.

Their ordeal ended after they confided in their teachers that they lived in fear of going home.

As Davies began a jail sentence of nearly six years, fresh details emerged about how he exerted control over the children and their mum.

The Cumbrian detective who led the police investigation said the case said it should be a warning to any other adult who is prepared to subject children to such cruelty.

The court heard that Davies - who strove to appear polite and reasonable when quizzed by police - told the children’s mother that she was not ‘punishing’ her children properly.

For months, he then meted out brutal treatment to the terrified youngsters, the court heard.

That catalogue of cruelty included:

* Starving them and forcing them to beg for food.

* Compelling them to stare at a wall for hours at a time.

* Forcing them into freezing baths filled with ice cubes.

* Making them sleep on floors without blankets.

* Dragging the girl to the bathroom by her legs.

* And taunting the boy with abusive remarks.

Whenever the mother attempted to protect the children or tried to intervene - on occasions by trying to give the youngsters blankets - Davies overruled her, said Mr Evans.

He would push her away.

The authorities got involved after the children - pupils at a primary school in Carlisle - told their teachers they were afraid of what their mother’s boyfriend would do to them. 

Reacting to a suggestion from Davies that his behaviour had been an attempt to 'punish' the siblings, Detective Constable Julie Ross, who oversaw the two-year investigation, said: “This was miles away from that type of punishment.

“It wasn’t about punishing naughty children.

“This was a sadistic, cruel person who took pleasure out of inflicting pain on those children - kinds of pain which could not be easily identified. He realised that if he hit a child then they would be marked and it would been seen.

“But if he made them take cold baths or sleep on the floor it wouldn’t be obvious. It wasn’t punishment at all. It was sadistic cruelty and he took pleasure from it.”

DC Ross said Davies manipulated the family to the extent that the mother was living in fear of him.

Once the police had intervened, the mother was relieved and grateful, said the officer.

“Throughout this investigation,” said DC Ross, “she said that if only she’d known about what support there would be available for her and the family she would have reported it earlier.

"We immediately put into place support for her and the children.”

That support - emotional, practical, and financial - is always provided for victims who need emergency intervention, said the officer.

Among the key agencies on hand for victims of such abuse is Witness Support. DC Ross said people should never be afraid to report their suspicions and they should know that it is okay to get it wrong.

"If we know about a situation, we can investigate and make an informed choice," said the officer. Reporting your suspicions could save lives.

"You have to remember the psychological effect on a child who are subjected to this kind of horrific behaviour. The mother in this case desperately wanted to protect her children.

"But she was in fear of Gary Davies."

The two children - whom Davies forced to make statements to the police before admitting his guilt - are now receiving intensive counselling, added the officer.

DC Ross added: "Cumbria Constabulary always takes all such offending seriously and all complaints will be investigated thoroughly, with all victims provided with the necessary support and safeguarding.

“Anyone with any concerns can always contact us on 101.

"We work hard to bring justice to all victims and offer all the support people might need.”

In court, defence lawyer Jeff Smith, for Davies said that not all the psychological harm suffered by the children could be blamed on the defendant.

“He concedes that his behaviour was entirely inappropriate," said Mr Smith."

Jailing Davies for five years and eleven months, Judge Nicholas Barker told him his treatment of the children was "grotesque" and "sadistic".

“You would cause them to stand against a wall for up to two hours, a couple of days a week," said the judge.

“You caused them to sleep on the bathroom floor and if their mother wanted to cover them with a towel you visited retribution on her.

“You made them have cold baths and added ice cubes to it. It’s a catalogue of sadistic behaviour. You as an adult were well aware of the fear you were importing into those children.

“You will be well aware of how they reacted to you - no doubt with utter terror. Given that you did not temper your behaviour, you must have obtained sadistic pleasure from it.

"Both children suffered significant mental health problems.”

Davies' behaviour was not a “momentary loss of control.” It was premeditated and designed by Davies so that he could obtain a "sadistic satisfaction" from his actions, said the judge.

Judge Barker added: “It’s hard to see that you have offered genuine remorse, given that you required the children to be court-summonsed so their veracity could tested.

"You are a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public.”

The judge Barker imposed an extended licence period, meaning the defendant will be remain at risk of recall to prison for an extra two years after the expiry of his determinate sentence, making a total sentence of seven years and eleven months.

Prosecutors have confirmed that the controlling and coercive behaviour charge Davies faced - relating to his behaviour towards the children's mother between May and November of 2018 - will lie on file.

Where you can get help

* The number for Childline is 0800 1111

* To report a concern about a child in Cumbria, call 0333 2401727.

* You can also call police on 101, or call 999 in an emergency.

* Alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.