A child abuser who was last month found guilty of rape and child neglect has been found dead in prison while awaiting sentencing.

Andrew Hadwin, 39, was due to be sentenced for his heinous crimes on April 28 but died at HMP Durham on Thursday (February 2), the Ministry of Justice has said.

Mr Hadwin and Cheryl Pickles subjected children to prolonged physical and emotional abuse over the course of several years, including forcing them to eat soap and scavenge for scraps.

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Hadwin, and Pickles, 35, were charged with several offences of child neglect and sexual activity with a child, and one count of perverting the course of justice.

Hadwin was also charged with three counts of rape in relation to non-recent abuse of another child.

A spokesperson for the prison service told The Mirror: “HMP Durham prisoner Andrew Hadwin died on February 2. As with all deaths in custody, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will investigate.”

During a seven-week trial concluding on January 18, Teesside Crown Court heard from medical experts who described how the children regularly suffered painful injuries, with one child left with life-limiting injuries as a result of the abuse.

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The pair, of Bowburn, in Durham, would also order takeaways and make the children watch them eat them while stood in stress positions for long periods of time.

Jurors also heard how the couple wrote letters, which were given to police, claiming to be from the children in which they apologised for lying and were sorry, and made false allegations of sexual assault by professionals working to support them.

However, a handwriting expert confirmed the writing was not that of a child, and that the letters had actually been written in a notebook found at the couple’s home.

After three days of deliberations, the jury found Hadwin guilty of three counts of rape, seven counts of neglect, and one count of perverting the course of justice. He was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.

Pickles was found guilty of five counts of child cruelty and one of perverting the course of justice. She was found not guilty of sexual activity with a child.

During the police investigation, which spanned four years and involved more than 150 witnesses, detectives found they had repeatedly abused the children by making them eat soap, locking them in cupboards, forcing them into boiling hot showers and baths - sometimes submerging their heads under the water - and withdrawing their access to food.

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