Inside the house of horrors where two autistic brothers were found

House of horrors in Brisbane where two autistic brothers were found in a locked bedroom with no door handle as their violent, alcoholic father lay dead in another room

  • Autistic brothers were found naked in Brisbane home 
  • Their dead father was discovered in bedroom nearby
  • Harrowing details of their life of squalor exposed 

Caged in darkness for hours on end, fed raw sausages and left to fester for days in their own filth: Kaleb and Jonathon were treated worse than animals by the man who was meant to care for them most. 

The teenage autistic brothers were found naked and covered in faeces in a locked bedroom in May 2020 with no door handle, as their alcoholic father, who had been suffering from a terminal illness, lay dead in another part of the house in suburban Brisbane

It is unclear how long they had been left alone in their grim cell. 

But when police finally found Kaleb and Jonathon – pseudonyms to protect their identity – they were so malnourished they were suffering from a condition called kwashiorkor – a severe protein deficiency causing a swollen belly most often seen in the infant victims of famine.

The harrowing details, laid bare in the Disability Royal Commission’s damning 222-page report published on Tuesday, have raised questions about how the authorities in Queensland could allow a life of unimaginable squalor and deprivation to continue for so long. 

Two teenage autistic brothers were found naked and covered in faeces in a locked bedroom in May 2020, as their alcoholic father, who had been suffering from a terminal illness, lay dead in another part of the house in suburban Brisbane

It found that the state of Queensland could and should have done more to prevent the brothers’ suffering, calling on the state government to apologise and to consider compensation.  

The commission heard that officers from at least half a dozen Queensland government departments had been in and out of the house for years. 

During one police visit in 2010 – when Kaleb was nine and Jonathon was seven – officers observed Jonathon was ‘caged in a room with a wooden child safety gate nailed to the door frame’.

His room was furnished with a bare mattress totally devoid of any bed-clothing and a ‘toy, of sorts’.

On the same evening Kaleb was ‘locked in his room in complete darkness’, the report states.

‘Kaleb had a brown substance on his fingers. The house smelt of faeces.’

One child safety officer said the house was ‘unliveable for the children’. They were removed from their father’s care for just five days. 

A neighbour told the Disability Royal Commission she would play relaxing music loudly so the brothers could hear it in their darkened room where they were locked for 'hours'

The neighbour would also whistle and one of the brothers would whistle back

The commission heard from next door neighbour Lisa Hair who witnessed the brothers being abused by their father.

‘Ms Hair recalled during school holidays and weekends, Kaleb and Jonathon’s father locked them in their bedroom,’ the report said. 

‘On some occasions she could see they were locked in their room for the whole day, and into the night. 

‘She would play relaxation music loudly so Kaleb and Jonathon could hear it. She would also whistle, and Jonathon would whistle back.’

The kindly neighbour told the commission that Jonathon took great enjoyment from a bubble machine she set up to blow bubbles across the fence and Kaleb loved chickens, while both brothers adored her dog.

The house was described as 'unliveable' by one child safety officer

The boys were given raw sausages and a cold can of casserole to eat

But her small acts of care and friendliness could not save the boys from their father’s cruelty.

‘Ms Hair described one time when Paul Barrett opened the door to the boy’s bedroom and seeing Kaleb ‘slipping in faeces and urine’ in his bedroom,’ the report said.

‘She stated he ‘couldn’t stand up and walk’.’

The report added: ‘Ms Hair said she saw Kaleb and Jonathon’s father being rough with them.

‘On many occasions she would see him shove them in and out of the car, and yell at them.

‘Ms Hair observed Kaleb and Jonathon would usually be wearing only nappies, and would only have clothes on if they were going to school, or elsewhere.’

The neighbour also saw the boys’ father, who allegedly drank two casks of port a day, ‘give them an open cold can of casserole to eat’. 

Queensland 's government has apologised while pledging to consider recommendations of an inquiry report into mistreatment of two autistic teenagers

Child Services Minister Craig Crawford said the abuse, neglect and violence suffered by teens, known by the pseudonyms Kaleb and Jonathon, should never have happened

‘On another occasion, he gave them raw sausages in a sealed packet,’ the report said.

Tragically, Ms Hair told the commission she could not remember ever hearing the brothers’ father use their proper names.

Instead he would call them things like ‘d***head’, ‘f***wit’ and ‘fackwad’.

Disability and Child Safety Minister Craig Crawford apologised to the two young men on behalf of the Queensland government at a news conference on Tuesday.

‘This should not happen in our country, and it should not happen in our state,’ Mr Crawford said.

‘We must do better, we can do better, and we will do better.’

The brothers, who are now in their 20s, are now in care where they have 15 staff members who help care for them.

‘Kaleb and Jonathon both have wardrobes full of clothes and keep some of their favourite toys with them,’ the report added. 

Photos of the brothers, included in the report, show them gazing out onto a green field beneath a blue sky – a far cry from the darkened, filthy cell they languished in for years.  


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