A SHEFFIELD man put a three-year old girl in a chest freezer as a punishment for being ‘naughty’, a court heard.
Mohammed Altaf Hussain, aged 48, of Staniforth Road, Darnall, is accused of nine counts of cruelty against four different children.
Jeremy Hill-Baker, prosecuting on the first day of a trial at Sheffield Crown Court, said the youngsters - three girls and a boy aged between three and 12 - were hit with sticks, sandals and belts.
Hussain also threw a hot drink over a 10-year-old girl, hit a three-year-old boy with a coat hanger and would regularly lash out and slap the children if they were too noisy, Mr Hill-Baker said.
Hussain is also charged with causing aggravated bodily harm to a 42-year-old woman, by hitting her in the face with a wooden spoon.
The court heard the woman had trouble eating after the attacks.
Dressed all in black and speaking through a translator, Hussain spoke only to plead not guilty to each charge.
The jury of seven women and five men heard he has consistently denied the allegations since his arrest nearly two years ago.
Mr Hill-Baker said on at least two occasions the Bangladeshi-born restaurant worker put a three-year old girl in a large chest freezer as a punishment for misbehaviour.
The prosecutor said: “On several occasions the defendant put the three-year-old in the top of the freezer and put the lid wholly or partially down on her.
“The prosecution says that as an act of misguided punishment the defendant would pick up the little girl and put her in the freezer.
“He would not do this for any extended time, perhaps for a minute, but you will perhaps agree it is a frightening prospect.
“One witness said she saw him putting the little girl in there on two occasions. He said she had been ‘naughty’.”
Jurors were shown pictures of the chest freezer, before watching a recorded police interview with a Bengali woman who claimed she was present when Hussain put the child in the freezing cabinet.
Also speaking via a translator, she said: “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.”
Mr Hill-Baker said the incidents only came to light after the eldest child, now aged 15, spoke to a school learning mentor in March 2009.
The court heard Hussain was subsequently arrested but “denied everything”.
He claimed the allegations were made up because of a dispute over money.
Mr Hill-Baker 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.”
Hussain, who has been living in the UK for 16 years, also faces nine lesser charges of battery, as an alternative to the charges of cruelty to children.
The trial continues.