Homeless couple tortured man with iron, hammer and knife after he took them in

A drug-addicted couple tied a man’s hands and feet with a belt before torturing him with an iron, a hammer and knife – after he let them live in his flat.

Twisted addicts Michael Rowbotham and Natalie Wightman pressed the clothes iron to the man’s cheek and left him with permanent scars across his body – even smashing his knee caps with a hammer.

They burnt his feet with a cigarette lighter and slashed his shins with a knife.

The sick duo then locked him in a storing cupboard for an hour. Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard he thought he was going to die.

Rowbotham, 44, and Wightman, 39, have now been jailed for torturing the man after he let them stay in his flat.

The court heard how the victim had allowed Rowbotham and his girlfriend Wightman to stay at his flat in Ashton-under-Lyne after meeting the couple in January 2019.

On the evening of February 13, 2019, the three of them had been at the flat and had purchased around £200 worth of heroin, prosecutor Duncan Wilcox told the court.

The court heard that at around 10pm, Rowbotham and Wightman went into the bedroom and upon their return, began accusing the victim of stealing their drugs.

“They began pulling at his clothes and then stripped him naked. They tied his feet together with a cable and used a belt to tie his wrists together,” Mr Wilcox said.

“They were shouting at him ‘admit it, admit it’ and the couple then began to torture the victim.

“They hit him in the knee caps with a hammer and used a knife to slash him to the left shin. They burnt the soles of his foot with a lighter.”

The court heard how at some point during the assault, Wightman held a hot iron to the man’s cheek, which she then used to burn the top of his right leg.

Both Rowbotham and Wightman then dragged the victim into a store cupboard and said to him, “think what you’re going to say when we let you out,” the court was told.

“He was in the cupboard for at least an hour and thought he was going to die,” Mr Wilcox said.

“The defendants then dragged him into the bedroom and kicked and pushed him. The victim said he couldn’t take any more so he admitted stealing the drugs.

“After that they united him and left him whilst they went to bed.”

The court heard that the victim had only confessed to stealing the drugs because he was scared, not because he was guilty.

Whilst Rowbotham and Wightman slept, still fearing for his life, the man fled his flat and tried to seek help at a nearby shop.

He could barely walk because of the pain to his legs, the court was told.

The victim was taken to Tameside Hospital where he was treated for burns on the sole of his feet, slash marks on his foot, cuts to his knee, burn marks to his leg and a severe burn to his cheek.

He also suffered three slash marks to his leg which were so deep they required surgery, Mr Wilcox said.

In a victim statement read to the court, the man said he is now too scared to leave his house, and has permanent scars etched across his body which act as a constant reminder of his ordeal.

The man said: “My head is completely gone. I am scared to leave my front door. I am worried about the repercussions of talking to the police.

“I have permanent scars on my body and I have a scar on my face which I see every time I look in the mirror. I didn’t deserve any of this. They were homeless and I let them stay at my flat and this is how they repaid me.”

Rowbotham, of Wilmslow Road, Fallowfield was jailed for nine years after admitting an offence of false imprisonment and section 18 wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Wightman, of no fixed address, was jailed for seven and a half years after pleading guilty to the same offences.

Both, the court heard, have an extensive number of previous convictions for petty offences relating to their addiction to class A drugs.

Rowbotham’s defence barrister, Andrew McInnes, said an operation which saw 90 per cent of his client’s colon removed, had partly led to his mental state at the time of the offence.

“Whilst the defendant has a long record it is a record of a man gripped by an addiction to class A drugs,” Mr McInnes said.

“Coming out of hospital and losing his accommodation he began to inject drugs again. The defendant tells me he had lost contact with his family, and his self respect and could see no further than his next fix.

“The defendant had now come to a healthier position and he apologises for his behaviour and he does regret the injuries to the complainant.”

Wightman’s lawyer, Andrew Scott said that since she has been in prison, her client has been undertaking a methadone reduction programme to beat her drug addiction.

“All her previous convictions are related to her entrenched addiction to drugs,” Mr Scott said.

“She knows more than anyone that if she doesn’t address her addiction she will go back to prison or she will die.

“She apologises profusely to the victim for what happened.”

Sentencing the couple for what she described as a ‘sadistic’ attack, Judge Angela Nield said: “The victim is a man who had not just been your friend but someone who had extended his hospitality to you.

“If anyone needed to be reminded of the impact drug addiction can have they only need to look at what happened that night.

“In a home where he should have felt safe he was subjected to a systematic course of punishment almost reaching a point of torture.

“Two of his wounds required surgical treatment and he bears the scars to this day. I expect the