Orphan abuse trial hears aunt burned tongue of eldest niece with barbecue lighter

After her aunt used a barbecue lighter to burn her tongue as punishment for failing to turn in a school project, the witness said, she was told to keep the lighter in her bedroom as a reminder not to lie.

"It hurt and a couple of times I couldn't taste, like, the stuff that I was eating," said the niece in a videotaped interview with child abuse Det. Jason McDonald.

The names of the alleged victims (identified by initials) and the accused cannot be published in order to protect the children who were taken into care.

The video was played as evidence in the assault trial for the aunt and uncle of three orphaned children who lost their parents in a 2006 fiery crash in the U.S.

The children were 13, seven and six — EG and KG were the two older girls and DG, a younger boy — when KG showed up at school in 2011 with a bruised and swollen face.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the video of EG's interview with McDonald was played for court while the now 19-year-old watched from a remote witness room.

As she watched the video of her interview with McDonald, EG could be seen on the CCTV screen stroking the Camrose Police Service trauma dog, Lucy.

'I was scared'

At one point in the 2011 interview, McDonald asked EG how she felt about her aunt.

"How could she have done this to us?" asked EG. "I was scared and I didn't know what to do."

The abuse, said EG, began a couple of months after her aunt and uncle moved the family from the U.S. to Calgary. 

She said her aunt was the primary disciplinarian, but occasionally her uncle would take part. 

"Sometimes my aunt was tired of hitting us, so then she would tell [my uncle] to hit us on our feet."

'She didn't want anyone to see the bruise'

EG said she was forced to eat chocolate and candy until she threw up. Her aunt then made her drink her own vomit from a bucket, said EG through tears.

In another instance, EG said, her aunt gave her a black eye and threatened her if she told anyone.

"She put some makeup on me and she said to put the glasses on … because she didn't want anyone to see the bruise on my face"

"She said that if I told anyone they were going to take us away from her, so I never told anyone."

Little brother heard crying

EG also described an occasion where her aunt stripped her five-year-old brother down to his underwear in the bathroom and whipped him with an electrical cable. 

"You could hear she was hitting him and he was crying."

Several allegations EG made about her aunt and uncle — including the vomit incident and having needles stuck in her tongue — did not come out until three years after her initial interview with McDonald. 

Defence lawyer Kelsey Sitar questioned EG about that delay under cross-examination.

"Do you agree as time passes, memories fade?" asked Sitar.

"Yes," said EG who earlier told Crown prosecutor Ken McCaffrey she didn't remember some incidents initially.

Other siblings set to testify

After the children came forward with their allegations, they were taken to the children's hospital where they saw doctors and therapists.

The middle child made a book of words and pictures. One picture depicted needles in a child's tongue. That's when EG said she remembered her own incident of having sewing needles stuck in her tongue.

EG also confirmed under cross-examination that she did a project in 2010 called Me, Myself and I, in which she wrote that her family loved and cared for her and said she disliked the fact that she would lie on occasion.

The cross-examination continues Thursday. After that, EG's younger siblings will testify.