London jury deliberating in alleged parental child abuse case

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A jury has begun its deliberations at the trial of a man and woman accused of physically and sexually abusing their own children.

Superior Court Justice Thomas Heeney spent all of Thursday giving the jury its final instructions on the law at the trial of the man, 57, and the woman, 54.

The trial began nine weeks ago in London. The jury was sent to begin its discussions at about 7:45 p.m.

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The parents are facing a total of 41 charges – reduced from 47 counts when the trial started – including sexual assault, incest, aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessaries of life involving four of their children who testified at the trial. They have pleaded not guilty.

The jury has heard that they were seen as a typical middle-class family that was deeply religious and highly accomplished. They lived in several Ontario cities, including London.

However, what the children, who are now young adults, described in their testimony were experiences of profound violence and humiliation. They told of being tied up and locked in sheds, cupboards and basements, forced to drink soap and Tabasco sauce, being deprived food, frequent beatings, removal of fingernails and deeply disturbing accounts of forced sexual contact with their parents and others.

The parents, who are estranged, both testified and maintained their innocence.

There is a court order protecting the identities of the children.

Three days this week were spent on closing arguments from defence lawyers, Phillip Millar, who is representing the woman, Craig Zeeh, who is representing the man, and assistant Crown attorney Heather Donkers.

Thirteen jurors heard the case. Only 12 can decide the case, and one juror was excused before deliberations began.

The jury will remain sequestered until it reaches its verdicts.

jsims@postmedia.com

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