Kampala Metropolitan police arrested foster parents Nicholas and Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer on Dec. 9 after neighbors alerted officials about the alleged torture.
The couple have been residing in Uganda since 2017. Nicholas and his wife fostered three children in 2018, including the victim, from Welcome Ministry in Jinja city. They all eventually moved to the capitol of Kampala.
Uganda police say that between 2020 and 2022, Kayima John, who is a special needs student with an HIV positive diagnosis, has been “constantly tortured” by his foster parents.
An investigation of the incident revealed that the Spencers kept John barefoot, and “naked throughout the day,” and “would occasionally make him squat in an awkward position, with his head facing the floor and hands spread out widely.”
John was also forced to sleep on a wooden platform without a mattress and was served cold meals directly from the fridge. A camera was also installed in his room to track all of his actions.
The police force concludes that the child “could have endured more severe acts of torture, away from the camera.”
According to the Daily Monitor, a caregiver reported to the police that the foster parents accused John of being stubborn, hyperactive, and mentally unstable, and wanted him to get in line.
“I wanted to leave the job, but I knew if I left without doing something about it, the torture would continue,” she said, per the local outlet.
Since the arrest, the Spencers have pleaded not guilty to aggravated torture, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. More recently, an additional charge of aggravated child trafficking has appeared in a magistrate’s court, which carries the death penalty if convicted, according to the state prosecutor.