An American couple in Uganda are now facing life in jail for allegedly torturing a 10-year-old boy they fostered by keeping him ”barefoot and naked and forcing him to sleep without a mattress. ”
Nicholas Spencer and his wife, Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer, both 32, pleaded not guilty after they were charged with aggravated torture of the boy in their care while living in a Kampala suburb.
Police said that the couple would force the boy to spend the day barefoot and naked, would often make him squat in awkward positions, such as his head facing the floor or his hands spread widely – and was only served cold meals from a fridge.
The Spencers singled out the boy among their three foster children for allegedly being ‘mentally unstable’ and would also not let him sleep on a mattress, as authorities said the child ‘spent his nights on a wooden platform.’
They added: ‘We believe, the victim could have endured more severe acts of torture, away from the camera.’
The couple also face charges of remaining in the country illegally, as their work permits have expired. They have been kept in custody since Friday December 9.
The couple have three Ugandan children with them under foster care, including the victim, police said.
In an interview with the Ugandan outlet The Monitor, a woman who said she was the boy’s caretaker spoke anonymously about what she saw and also alleged that the boy had a camera in his room to watch his every move.
The caretaker said: ‘I wanted to leave the job, but I knew if I left without doing something about it, the torture would continue.’
She added that the couple only abused one of their three foster children because they claimed the 10-year-old boy was stubborn, hyperactive and mentally unstable. They used the punishments to keep him in line.
Reports suggest the boy was pulled out of school four months ago.
A lawyer for the caregiver, Christine Tumuhairwe, said that evidence of the boy being punished after having been read a list of his ‘wrongdoings’ has been submitted to the police.
Prosecutor Joan Keko argued that the Spencers remain imprisoned: ‘They have no community or family ties in Uganda, and the offence with which they are charged currently is of grave nature attracting a penalty of life imprisonment, therefore their likelihood to abscond from bail is really, really high.’
The couple’s lawyer Leila Saaliwulide said both had ailments requiring care which could not be given in prison. Keko argued there was no ailment that could not be treated in prison.
Magistrate Sarah Tumusiime said the couple should remain in jail until she rules on their bail application on December 20.
The Spencers are currently being held at Luzira Maximum Security Prison, the only maximum security prison in the country.