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Couple jailed after autistic man found close to death in locked attic room

Matthew Langley had been sleeping in an attic bedroom with a lock on the outside of the door which could only be opened from the outside.

18 February 2022

A couple who left an autistic man to live in squalor in a locked attic room until he nearly died have each been jailed for six years.

Lorna and Craig Hewitt were handed prison sentences on Friday by a judge who heard how Matthew Langley, 22, was found with severe malnutrition at their home in Walkley, Sheffield.

South Yorkshire Police said officers discovered that Mr Langley had been sleeping in an attic bedroom with a lock on the outside of the door which could only be opened from the outside.

The bedroom floor was covered in rubbish and human excrement and there were no washing facilities or toilet for him to use.

Craig Hewitt court case
Craig Hewitt (South Yorkshire Police/PA)

A force spokesman said that despite being 6ft, Mr Langley weighed only six stone and was covered in bruises and abrasions.

His fingers and toenails were so long they were causing him pain, his hair was long and unkempt, and his teeth were severely stained.

Officers said he was so unwell when he attended hospital that he was taken straight into intensive care but he has now recovered.

Medical experts determined that he must have been fed only a few hundred calories a day over the period of a few months and predicted he was just a few days from death when he attended hospital.

Mr Langley was not allowed out of his room or allowed to eat with the rest of the family.

Food was instead delivered to his room, police said.

Lorna Hewitt court case
Lorna Hewitt (South Yorkshire Police/PA)

Mr Langley’s mother Lorna Hewitt, 43, and her husband Craig Hewitt, 42, both of Walkley Road, Sheffield, were found guilty of causing or allowing serious injury to a vulnerable adult and false imprisonment last month at Sheffield Crown Court, where they were both sentenced on Friday.

Detective Chief Inspector Eleanor Welsh said: “I know people will be understandably upset and alarmed by hearing the details of what the victim in this case experienced at the hands of his mother and stepfather.

“I am sure people will be pleased to know that despite his ordeal, he has recovered well from the life-threatening condition he was found in, thanks to the care and support of medical professionals and partners.

“He is now a healthy and happy young man. He is now surrounded by the care and support he deserves to help him recover from the psychological effects of his experiences.”

Ms Welsh said: “I understand this incident is alarming to the community. The victim was abused and criminally neglected by the people trusted to look after him.

“His condition only came to light after he collapsed at home and authorities were alerted.”

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