SADISTIC parents kidnapped their innocent teenage babysitter and subjected her to a horrifying “campaign of terror and torture” because she dobbed in their friend to police.

In one of the worst cases of its kind in South Australian history, two “cruel” couples with young children inflicted “severe pain” and “humiliation” on the terrified girl at a home in Adelaide’s northern suburbs in June last year.

Authorities said the gang’s “wanton violence” over 18 hours — filmed on mobile phones — was “even more disturbing” because young children were present at the Munno Para West home.

Joshua Anthony Gent, 29; his former partner, mother of one Keira Jane Baker, 28; Patrick Breen, 25; and his fiancee, mother of two Stacey Gaffney, 23; are facing jail after admitting their roles in the horrific crime.

Harrowing evidence to the District Court laid bare how the girl, then 19, was kidnapped, tortured, tied up and detained in a closest as she begged for her life.

The teenager, Gent and Baker’s babysitter, was accused of being a “dog” who had “dobbed” an acquaintance to police over the theft of a car.

She was tied to a dog leash, beaten, burned with a drug pipe, made to drink bleach, eat pet food, smoke methamphetamine, inhale butane gas and clean up her own urine.

Weapons such as knuckledusters, screwdrivers and car jumper leads were used to “inflict extreme pain, suffering and instill terror on the victim”.

Numerous “chilling threats” were made including that she would be raped and then murdered. Her body was to be dumped at Mt Crawford forest in the Adelaide Hills.

Members of the group — caught only after a tip-off to police by a concerned friend — shopped, vacuumed, bought drugs and looked after their children as she was tortured.

Gent was on a good behaviour bond for drugs offences while Breen was on home detention bail for driving offences.

The pair, who remain in custody, have significant criminal records for drugs, violence, driving and theft offences.

Elizabeth CIB detectives recovered text messages, internet searches on “how to terrorise someone” and other evidence from the home implicating the quartet.

“When one considers what (the victim) endured, it is difficult to comprehend how a group of young people, all four of which were parents to young children, could be so cruel to another human being,” prosecutor Kelly Smith told the court.

NIGHT OF TERROR

Court documents reveal the “campaign of terror” began on Thursday, June 16 last year when the victim and her housemate, neither of whom can be named, went to babysit Baker and Gent’s seven-year-old daughter.

When the couple returned to their Elizabeth Park home at 12.30am, they accused the girl of lying and being a “dog” before Gent phoned Breen to help “teach her a lesson”.

Tying the girl up with a dressing gown and gagging her with an onion, the pair dumped her in the boot of a car and drove to Breen and Gaffney’s place, 12 minutes away.

Ms Smith said the girl was the victim of “persistent offending of prolonged brutality and deprivation of liberty” for between 16 and 18 hours.

The girl, who had no idea why she was targeted, begged for mercy as Gent and Baker attacked her. At one point the pair ordered the girl’s housemate to also assault her with knuckledusters.

She was then choked with a lead and made to eat pet food because she was a “dog”.

The terrified girl wet herself “because she was so scared” before being made to clean up and ordered not to bleed on the carpet.

The gang wanted to detain her for at least a week, leaving the girl to believe “they were going to kill her”, Ms Smith said.

Gent, who wore a frightening skeleton outfit during the attack, and Baker admitted inflicting most of the violence, while Breen was also involved.

Gaffney’s two-year-old son was in another room at the same time, a sentencing submissions hearing heard last month.

Ms Smith said at various stages the gang “took time out to eat, drink, purchase or obtain illicit drugs, to go about their day, all knowing that this young woman who they had repeatedly tormented, was imprisoned and suffering in a closest”.

What was of significance, she added, was none of the gang tried to end their victim’s ordeal but instead “re-energized … to inflict more pain”.

“They all chose to regroup on a number of occasions and continue to sadistically assault (her),” she told the court.

“It is apparent when one considers the evidence that (they) each had many opportunities to reflect upon their horrendous conduct and put an end to it.”

Ms Smith said the “horrific ordeal” only ended when police rescued her at 9.09 pm on Friday, June 17, after the housemate’s mother contacted authorities.

Gent told a psychologist he believed the victims had “dobbed in to police a friend about a stolen car”, adding: “We took the law into our own hands.”

Judge Jack Costello refused access to the disturbing mobile phone footage.

OVERWHELMING FEAR

In her victim impact statement, the northern suburbs victim told the court of her “heartbreaking trauma”.

She declined to read it to the court last month after becoming overcome with emotion.

Ms Smith paid tribute to her “courage” as did Judge Costello, who said her trauma was completely understandable.

The victim wept from the public gallery as Ms Smith read on her behalf: “I find it hard to do day to day activities (such as) going out to public places because I feel like I will see the offenders.

“The experience has left me with disturbed sleep, overwhelming fear and an inability to enjoy life in a normal way.

“I also have nightmares regularly as a result and intrusive thoughts. I also avoid being in public places by myself.”

After being “badly beaten up”, she spent several days in hospital and has been left scarred. She is considering moving interstate “out of fear”.

She was left with an ambulance trip bill while her mobile phone — which the gang filmed the torture on — was seized as evidence.

“I … always feel sick when reminded of the experience and end up spending the rest of the day in bed as a result,” she wrote.

“I always replay in my mind what the offenders said to me, their expression of anger and hate towards me and the overwhelming fear I experienced.”

The victim declined comment outside court. Her housemate did not give a statement.

COMMUNITY REVULSION

Gent, Baker and Breen all face up to 25 years in jail after pleading guilty to aggravated charges of unlawful detention and causing serious harm with intent between June 15 and 18 last year.

They also face a further 10 years behind bars for stealing the girls’ mobile phone, bank card, laptop, jewellery, make-up and other items valued up to $2500.

Gent and Baker have also pleaded guilty to more aggravated charges of threatening to kill the victim’s housemate and robbery using an axe.

Gaffney, who was listed as the home’s sole occupant but lived there with her fiancee Breen, also faces jail after pleading guilty to aggravated unlawful detention.

Their guilty pleas earn up to a 30 per cent sentencing discount. Other charges against Gaffney, a carer, were withdrawn.

Legal sources described the case as “off the charts” and among the worst to come before the state’s courts that did not involve a murder.

Authorities believe it was pure luck the girl did not die.

Despite the gang’s youthful ages, Ms Smith called for immediate jail terms for the “considerable gravity and violence”.

She highlighted “the fear instilled into (the victim)” and “community revulsion at such a shocking crime”.

“(Their) conduct … appeared to have been deliberately designed to calculate the maximum amount of terror in the victim and the maintenance of that terror over a sustained period,” she said. “The prosecution submits it was, in effect, a campaign of terror or torture.

“Such wanton violence as this, would be deeply disturbing to the average citizen. The community abhors senseless violence such as this was.”

She added: “As far as the circumstances of the crimes are concerned, the prosecution submits that there is really nothing which points in the direction of leniency — it was gratuitous, unjustifiable (and) prolonged violence.

“These are crimes … to which the community’s sense of justice calls for heavy punishment, they are crimes which cause fear and revulsion within the community.”

TRAUMATIC BACKGROUNDS

In a depressingly familiar backstory, the court was told over two hearings how three of the gang members had “unstable”, “chaotic” and “terrible” childhoods marked by drug abuse, behavioural issues, broken families and foster homes.

The fourth, Gaffney, grew up in a loving Catholic family.

Kathryn Herrimen, defending Gaffney, asked that her client not have a conviction recorded, or receive a suspended jail term, because she played a minor role.

She was “ashamed” she had not intervened or contacted police but had tried to provide croissants and cordial to the victim.

Prosecutors say she continued doing chores despite claiming to be frightened.

Court documents state she and Baker, who are on bail, labelled each other “suspect 3 and 4” in text messages.

Gaffney wept in the dock as the court heard she lost her nursing home job last month while health regulators investigate her.

Gaffney’s family, who emigrated from Manchester in northern Britain when she was a teenager, have been left devastated. Her father hugged the victim at court and pledged support.

The gang were avid social media users.

In May last year, Gent told friends: “lett the rebuild of life begin here I go (sic)”.

Less than two hours before he was arrested, Breen — whose six-month-old son was born while he was in custody — told a friend online that he was “keeping my head down bro”.

Judge Costello will sentence next week. The gang refused comment.

SUBURBAN CAMPAIGN OF TERROR

Acts of violence or humiliation

  • Tied with dressing gown

  • Onion in mouth, held in by tea towel and then a ‘squeaky toy’

  • Dumped in boot

  • Held hostage in spare room closest

  • Told she was to have sex with stranger

  • Repeatedly punched in face

  • Ordered not to bleed on carpets

  • Hit across fingers with ‘silver cutting tool’

  • Jumper leads on fingers

  • Hands stood on to break her fingers

  • Hit over hands with long metal screwdriver to break fingers

  • Kicked in stomach

  • Hit in face, stomach and left ribs with knuckleduster

  • Hit in lower back with piece of black plastic

  • Called a dog, tied with leash, made to eat pet food and ‘bark’

  • Force to smoke methamphetamine

  • Burnt on chest with hot ice pipe

  • Made to inhale butane gas

  • Forced to drink bleach

  • Pliers attached to tongue to ‘rip it out’

  • Shifter on her nose

  • Hit on head with ‘tool like axe’

  • Gent told her he ‘wanted to choke (her) to death in front of them all’

  • Ball bearings thrown at her

  • Made to put her foot in her mouth

  • Made to clean up own urine

Filmed on a mobile phone

  • One clip, tendered to the court, showed the victim in the bedroom being verbally abused, kicked, hair pulled, and humiliated, being forced to bark like a dog and beg for her life

  • A second clip showed her again in the bedroom being repeatedly verbally abuses, threatened, kicked, dragged by her hair and burned.

  • A third clip showed her in the backyard being verbally and physically abused as well as humiliated. She was forced to eat dog food on the ground with a lead around her neck. It shows Gent wearing a skeleton outfit to scare the victim.

Physical and mental harm

  • Ice pipe burn on chest (has left scar)

  • ‘Extensive’ bruising over her body including face, neck, upper chest and lower body

  • Swelling

  • Abdominal tenderness

  • Disturbed sleep

  • Overwhelming fear

  • Inability to enjoy life

  • Hyper vigilance

  • Avoidance behaviours

  • Isolation

  • Distress

  • Major depression

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Source: Office of Director of Public Prosecutions

 

 

 

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