Mother jailed for ‘24-hour-a-day’ torture of son

A “SADISTIC” mother was jailed yesterday for subjecting her healthy son to “24-hour-a-day torture” by pretending he was severely ill to gain publicity and financial rewards.

Lisa Hayden-Johnson “revelled” in the national attention she achieved by claiming her young son was sick – including meetings with royalty and with former prime minister Tony Blair.

The mother of two, from Brixham, Devon, amassed cash donations and charity gifts, including two cruises, and successfully lobbied for her son to receive a Child of Courage Award.

The 35-year-old was sentenced to three years and three months in prison at Exeter Crown Court yesterday after previously admitting charges of child cruelty and perverting the course of justice.

Opening the case, prosecutor Andrew Macfarlane said the cruelty she subjected her child to was “lengthy and enduring”.

He said: “The defendant organised, orchestrated and ensured a regime of medical, physiological and psychological mistreatment amounting to 24 hour-a-day torture that touched on every aspect of his young vulnerable life.

“As a result of her sadistic fabrication of non-existent symptoms, the defendant achieved much publicity and national attention, including an encounter with royalty and the then prime minister.”

Macfarlane said Hayden-Johnson frequently described her son “as the most ill child in Britain”.

The boy was taken into care in October 2007, the court heard.

Hayden-Johnson subjected him to a total of 325 medical encounters, Macfarlane said.

Hayden-Johnson claimed her son suffered from a long list of illnesses including diabetes, food allergies, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and dysphagia.

Macfarlane said the boy “never suffered from any of these disorders or handicaps and the symptoms reported by the defendant were fictitious, either invented by her or created by her”.

The child was consequently subjected to a series of “physical intrusions and interventions” during his medical treatment.

These included blood tests, intravenous treatments and a gastrostomy, and he was fed through a tube and confined to a wheelchair.

Mr Macfarlane said his medical treatment meant he was “socially stigmatised”.

In the boy’s room, police discovered a hospital bed, a feed pump, oxygen mask and medical supplies.

Macfarlane said the defendant “revelled in the publicity she was able to generate by using (her son)”.

He said “the pinnacle of the defendant’s achievements” came in 2005 when she successfully and “vigorously lobbied” for her son to receive a Child of Courage Award.

Photographs were submitted to the court showing the defendant and her son meeting Tony and Cherie Blair, actress June Whitfield, Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen, Simon Cowell, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the casts of Casualty and EastEnders.

She also secured free tickets for The X Factor after contacting Simon Cowell.

Macfarlane said the boy “was convinced that he was chronically and seriously ill”.

He added: “The effect of all this on his long-term psyche is unclear.”

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