Toronto Star

Jan. 15, 2003. 01:00 AM

Woman, 81, sent to jail for years of child abuse

Oldest female prisoner to serve 4 years Young girls tortured in boarding house

Toronto Star

LONDON, Ont.—An 81-year-old woman became the oldest female prisoner in Canada yesterday when she was sentenced to four years for torturing and abusing children in her care.

Edith Sanders, who ran a boarding house for kids from the 1950s to the 1980s, is now the oldest woman in custody, Corrections officials say.

"The impact upon the lives of the three complainants is irreparable," Superior Court Justice Edward Browne said in passing sentence. "There was a terrible breach of trust. The evidence I heard was more appalling than any I have experienced in (more than) 40 years since my call to the bar, with more than 20 of those years being judicial years."

Victims testified that, while under Sanders' care, they were beaten with hockey sticks, tortured with a cattle prod and forced to eat animal feces.

Browne said he took Sanders' age and health into consideration while sentencing her to jail, but said the woman practised "domination through fear and control."

Sanders, convicted in October of seven counts of assault — four of common assault and three of assault causing bodily harm — stared in open-mouthed shock and lowered her head into her hands when Browne announced the sentence.

Her 58-year-old daughter, Yvonne Overton, who was one of the victims, said the sentence was "a long time coming" and the scars will always remain.

The other victims were an adopted daughter, Kimberly Campbell, now 45, and Beatrice Feick, now 64, who was kept as a house slave for more than 30 years from the 1950s to 1985.

Feick described one incident in which she was forced into a tub of boiling water and held down with a plunger by Sanders, then placed into ice-cold water outdoors. Later, Sanders broke Feick's blisters with her nails.

The victims hugged each other as the woman they knew as their mother was led off to jail.

"I'm glad," Feick said outside the courtroom. "I'm glad to see her put away... Now she can't harm anybody else."

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