A ten-year-old boy was forced to sleep in this filthy ‘cell’ every night for over a year.
The child’s mother and her partner locked him in the former coal bunker with a soiled mattress, a dirty sleeping bag and a ceramic potty.
The couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, face prison after pleading guilty to child cruelty by neglect.
The soiled mattress and dirty sleeping bag in the coal bunker where the boy was kept for more than a year
Their victim attended school but at night he was banished to the cold, cramped outhouse with no toilet, toothbrush or washing facilities.
He was locked up for even longer periods if he was caught taking food from the fridge during the day.
The plight of the child, who has been taken into care, came to light after teachers at his school became concerned about his condition and alerted the authorities.
When interviewed by police, the boy explained: ‘It felt like living in a box.’ Officers who investigated thecase described the couple’s treatment of him as ‘barbaric’.
Detective Constable Matt Normanton of Blackpool Police said: ‘The child was found to be kept in a cell, livingin poor, inhumane conditions.
‘I have never seen anything like it – the place was far worse than a police or prison cell. I hope I never come across anything like this again.
“It was just big enough for a single mattress and a ceramic potty, which was full of urine. The kid had been scratching stuff on the walls while he was locked up. It was barbaric.’
The dirty potty which was filled with urine and kept next to the mattress
He continued: ‘There was no air, it was really stale and cold. There was a small window on the far side, which was sealed, and a single lightbulb. There was a bowl with some stale food in it. It’s nothing short of being a prisoner.’
Of the boy’s mother and her partner, he said: ‘They would be sitting in their lounge, watching television, and he would be in this room with a padlock on.’
The coal bunker had been built on to the side of the couple’s semi-detached council house in Blackpool.
An internal wall had been knocked through to create an entrance to the ‘room’, which was sealed by a padlocked door.
After the boy’s conditions were revealed, he was given medical treatment and placed in the care
of the local authority.
He now boasts to social workers that he has got his first toothbrush and can play in the park like other children.
Detectives said the couple repeatedly blamed the boy for his situation, saying his behaviour was intolerable. They would lock him up for even longer as an additional punishment if hetook food from the fridge – typically uncooked meat and lumps of butter.
The pair, who pleaded not guilty to a charge of ill-treating the child in a manner likely to cause unnecessarysuffering or injury, are due to be sentenced at Preston Crown Court next month. Judge Anthony Russell warned them that they face jail terms.
The mother, who is in her 30s, and her partner, who is in his 40s, have been banned from contacting the boy.
In addition, they must not have any contact with any child under 16 unless supervised by social
Concerns about the ten-year-old’s welfare were reported to Blackpool Police’s public protection
unit last year. His mother and her partner admitted neglecting the child between January 1, 2010 and January 25, 2011.
A neighbour on their council estate said: ‘There is a high wall between us and we did not know what was going on. All the houses had the old brick-built coal bunkers, which became redundant when central heating was installed.
‘Many were knocked down and others made into small extensions of the house.
‘We cannot understand why it took so long for the authorities to realise something was going dreadfully wrong. It should be investigated.’
A spokesman for Blackpool Council said a full report on the case was being compiled.