American couple charged with torture of 10-year-old Ugandan foster child

Nicholas Spencer and Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer fostered three children but allegedly tortured only one because they believed he was hyperactive and defiant.

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An American couple living in Uganda stands accused of torturing their 10-year-old foster child.

According to ABC News, Nicholas Spencer and his wife, Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer, have been in custody since Dec. 9, accused of aggravated torture and child trafficking. The couple, who are both 32, arrived in the nation in 2017 as volunteers.

Police said the Spencers fostered three children in Jinja City from Welcome Ministry in 2018. They later joined a private company and relocated to Upper Naguru, a district of Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

Nicholas Spencer (left) and Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer (right) are accused of child trafficking and aggravated torture of a 10-year-old child they were fostering in Uganda. (Photo: Screenshot/ China Morning Post)

Between 2020 and 2022, the couple allegedly “constantly tortured” one of their foster children, authorities contend.

The Spencers allegedly pulled the child from his school, Dawn Children’s Center in Ntinda, four months ago, denying him the opportunity to receive an education and, without clothes, confining him to a small, cold space that served as his bedroom, Ugandan newspaper the Daily Monitor reported. He was also forced to stand or crouch in unnatural positions.

The boy’s caregiver, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed she informed police about the situation when she saw his condition deteriorating.

“I wanted to leave the job, but I knew if I left without doing something about it, the torture would continue,” the caregiver said, according to the Monitor.

The caregiver said that while the couple cared for three children, they only abused one because they claimed he was hyperactive and defiant. They also said he was mentally unstable, so they tortured him to force him to behave, even installing a camera to watch his every move, according to the caregiver.

“[H]e spent his nights on a wooden platform, without a mattress or beddings and was served cold meals from the fridge,” police said in a statement, ABC reported. “We believe, the victim could have endured more severe acts of torture, away from the camera.”

Christine Tumuhairwe, a lawyer assisting the caregiver in gathering evidence against the Spencers, said the boy’s punishments followed a list of “wrongdoings,” the Monitor reported.

According to ABC, the Spencers entered a not-guilty plea to the charge of aggravated torture. The Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act of 2012 stipulates that the couple could receive a life sentence in jail if found guilty, the Monitor reported.

All three children who were under the couple’s care are in a temporary foster home as they await reassignment.

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