Restaurant man ‘put girl aged three in freezer as punishment’

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A TEENAGE girl told a jury yesterday how a South Yorkshire man put a three-year-old girl in a deep freezer as a punishment for being naughty.

Mohammed Altaf Hussain, 48, is also alleged to have hit three girls and a boy, aged between three and 13, with sticks, sandals and belts to chastise them.

He allegedly put the young girl in the top of a large chest freezer before putting the lid wholly or partially down on her on two occasions, Sheffield Crown Court has been told.

Giving evidence, the 15-year-old girl said: “The three-year-old used to jump about, that’s what she is like.

“It got on his nerves and he didn’t like it. He would threaten her and say, ‘Stop it now, or you will go into the fridge.’

She said the three-year-old would not have been able to get out if the freezer lid was down.

“She didn’t know what she was in”, the teenager told the court.

The girl broke down and sobbed at one point as she recounted how the defendant hit her with sticks, twisted her arm behind her back and threw a hot cup of tea over her leg.

The teenager, speaking on a police video interview shown to the jury, said of Hussain: “He’s just really selfish. He doesn’t care about kids.”

She said he used to pick on the younger children for no reason and added: “It was just when he was angry if they were doing something, when they do little things wrong. He just hit them for little things.”

A woman who said she twice saw the three-year-old girl put into the freezer said via a court video-link that on the second occasion, when she came out, the girl was “crying, frightened and shivering”.

She watched the defendant put the screaming girl into the freezer and hold the lid.

She said: “I pushed him and took her out. If I hadn’t seen her at that time she would be dead.”

Jeremy Hill-Baker, prosecuting, has told the court that as an act of misguided punishment the defendant would pick up the girl and put her in the freezer.

He would not do this for any extended time, perhaps for a minute, but it was a frightening prospect for the girl.

Hussain is accused of nine counts of cruelty against four different children over a three-year period.

He is alleged to have hit a three-year-old boy with a coathanger and would regularly lash out and slap the children if they were too noisy.

Hussain, from Sheffield, is further charged with causing aggravated bodily harm to the woman by hitting her in the face with a wooden spoon. He denies all the charges.

The woman who witnessed the freezer punishment said in a recorded police interview earlier shown to the court: “He put the little girl in the deep freezer.

“I asked him: “What if she died? What did she do to you? Is this how you treat children?

“He promised not to do it again. But he did it again. I told him if I hadn’t been watching he would have killed her.”

Under cross-examination by Robert Smith for the defence, the woman denied that she had lied about the freezer incidents and said she had only tried to retract her complaint after pressure from her brother.

The alleged abuse came to light after the eldest child told a school learning mentor what had been happening in March 2009.

Hussain was arrested but denied everything. He claimed that the allegations were concocted because of a dispute over money.

Mr Hill-Baker earlier told the jury the crux of the case against Hussain was whether he had “wilfully assaulted” the children.

He said: “Hussain is charged with cruelty to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health.

“This case is about wilful assault and ill treatment.

“Those are the words to concentrate on when looking at the subject of cruelty.

“That is the focal point of the cruelty charges.”

Restaurant worker Hussain, who has been living in the UK for 16 years, also faces nine lesser charges of battery as an alternative to the cruelty charges.

The trial continues.