London Free Press

Friday, September 6, 2002

Woman beat and shocked kids, says witness

By FEDERICO BARAHONA, Free Press Reporter
London Free Press

An elderly woman facing charges of child abuse repeatedly beat and used electrical shocks on children for not doing their chores, one of her accusers testified yesterday.

Londoner Edith Sanders, 80, faces 14 charges related to alleged beatings and torture of children dating back to 1951.

Yesterday, a 58-year-old witness who lived with Sanders until she was 17 described a beating she saw in which a young teen received about 100 whacks with an altered hockey stick.

"I walked into the bedroom and her bum was bleeding," said the witness, who referred to the beatings as "getting the belt."

"Her back looked like first-degree burns it was so blistered."

She said Sanders would also use electrical shocks, using an unspecified method, on the same teen if she fell asleep before doing her chores.

Sanders has no lawyer and is defending herself. Yesterday, she looked frail and had trouble getting up when Superior Court Justice Edward Browne left the courtroom.

At one point, a court technician was asked to turn up the volume of a speaker on Sanders's counsel desk after she complained she was having difficulty hearing testimony.

"Your obligation is to signal that you didn't hear right away," said Justice Browne, who also urged Sanders to take notes while others testified so she could cross-examine them.

Later, Sanders's voice was shaky, as she tried to cross-examine a witness. She then started to cry when she described how much she loved a witness who testified Wednesday but was cross-examined again yesterday.

Minutes earlier, a friend who was supposed to be taking notes to help Sanders fell asleep during the proceedings.

"Please wake up," Sanders pleaded as she struggled to poke her friend awake.

The trial is slated to last as long as three weeks.

The witness told court as many as 10 kids, including children from Children's Aid and foster kids, lived in the house under Sanders's care during the 1960s.

The witness, who lived with Sanders in a Hill Street house until 1962, said the children feared Sanders because of the random beatings she would deliver.

"It all depends on the mood she was in," said the London woman. "When she does it, she doesn't stop till she's worn down."

She said the house's back bedroom was known to the children as the "whacking room."

Sanders, who was charged in 1998 -- unlike the U.S., Canada has no statute of limitations -- is also accused by women ages 44 and 58.

As a previous witness testified, the woman referred to incidents when Sanders used a belt to beat the children.

The woman said many of the children in Sanders's care had run away.

The trial continues today.

Copyright © 2002, The London Free Press.