A woman who suffered years of physical and mental torture by her “sadistic” foster mother and went on to became a passionate advocate for abuse survivors has died aged 35.
Victoria Spry, who was abused by Eunice Spry for almost 20 years, wrote and spoke about her experiences to try to help others facing the same sort of torment. She also worked alongside social services in Gloucestershire to try to help them prevent such a tragic case happening again.
Details about the circumstances of Victoria’s death have not been released, but police are not treating it as suspicious. An inquest will take place.
In 2007 Bristol crown court heard that Spry beat Victoria and two other children with sticks and metal bars, scrubbed their skin with sandpaper, and forced them to eat lard, bleach, vomit and even their own faeces.
She treated the children as if they were her slaves, ordering one of them to stay in a wheelchair for four years even though she could walk, so that Spry could claim benefits.
Spry, a Jehovah’s Witness who was seen as a pillar of her local community in Tewkesbury, would punish the children because she thought they were possessed by the devil, and once kept two of them imprisoned, naked and starving, in a room for a month.
Jailing her for 14 years, Judge Simon Darwall-Smith told Spry, then 62, that it was the worst case he had come across in his career. He told her: “You were careful to carry out what can be described as sadistic torture without being found out. If it were solely my decision, you would be facing a sentence from which you would not be released.”
Darwall-Smith went on to criticise welfare professionals who had failed to pick up on the abuse of the children. Spry’s sentence was reduced to 12 years on appeal and she was freed in 2014.
One of Victoria’s foster siblings said she wanted to be remembered not for what Spry did to her, but for the work she did helping people afterwards. Joanna Nicolas, an independent safeguarding consultant and author, described Victoria as “one of a kind”, adding: “She was extraordinary for having no anger towards a system that failed her or even the woman that tortured her. All she wanted to do was help others.”
Speaking in 2015 about her role with social services, Victoria said: “It is really nice to be going to the same office where I was let down as a little one, now as a young woman helping other children.”
Spry was convicted of 26 charges including unlawful wounding, cruelty to a person under 16, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, perverting the course of justice, and witness intimidation.
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