A high-flying scientist was jailed for four years yesterday for subjecting her children to years of horrific abuse.
Inside the closed doors of her £450,000 home in a leafy part of Cheshire, Dr Jill Newcombe-Buley punched, slapped and tried to suffocate her three adopted children – two boys and a girl – in a struggle to cope with their behaviour.
Liverpool Crown Court heard how Newcombe-Buley verbally abused them, stamped on them with stilettos, and on one occasion split open the head of one child by hitting him with a dustbin.
She also held their heads under water in an ice-cold bath as punishment and, in a row over bedtime, tried to smother a girl with a pillow until she blacked out.
The eight years of abuse only came to light last September when the elder boy found the courage to go to the police.
Yesterday, Newcombe-Buley sobbed as she admitted 15 counts of assault and child neglect.
Her husband, Dr Nicholas Newcombe, also a research scientist, pleaded guilty to three charges of neglect, but walked free after a judge accepted that, while he failed to alert police, he did not take part in the abuse. He was given a 12-month jail term, suspended for two years.
Judge Stephen Clarke told the Newcombes that social workers saw them as the perfect couple to take on the children in 1999.
'You presented a very attractive package, nice home, good employment,' the judge said. 'Here was an intelligent couple with a good education and income, the perfect situation.
'As it transpired both defendants were ill-prepared to cope with children.
'No children should be subjected to punching and slapping and believing they are to be suffocated. They were plunged into cold water, struggling to try to stay alive. This was extreme cruelty over an extended period of time.
'The real tragedy was that to admit that they had problems would have resulted in a tremendous loss of face, something a couple, so used to success, academically and in their working lives, would have found difficult.
'Nicholas Newcombe's loyalty to his wife overrode his duty to protect the children who suffered at her hands. He let them down terribly.'
The court heard that the Newcombes met at university while both were studying for a PhD in chemistry. They married in the summer of 1994, but struggled to have children of their own and decided to adopt.
In 1999, three children, the youngest of whom was born with an addiction to methadone because his mother was a drug user, were offered to the couple for adoption, and Newcombe-Buley gave up her high-flying job in pharmaceutical research to become a full-time mother and housewife.
But with her husband working long hours as associate director of global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, she began to struggle with their challenging behaviour.
Instead of asking for help, Newcombe-Buley, who was used to a high level of success in her personal and professional life, began handing out beatings and punishments at the family home in Prestbury.
Her husband, who now lives in Stockport, witnessed only a fraction of the abuse and failed to act.
Andrew Jebb, defending Newcombe-Buley, said she was an only child and this, coupled with having no offspring of her own, had affected her ability to cope with the youngsters.
Judge Clarke lifted an order banning naming of the couple but said the children's identities should be protected.
The court heard they still had some affection for their adopted father but had since been placed with new carers.
David Mellor, of Cheshire East Safeguarding Children's Board, which was responsible for overseeing the children's adoption, said a serious case review had been launched.