A foster mother who cared for one of the children at the centre of an abuse case has told the Central Criminal Court she had never seen a child so afraid of being washed.

The woman was giving evidence in the trial of six people charged with a range of offences involved in the alleged abuse of the children. The parents are also charged with neglecting five children.

There are wide-ranging reporting restrictions in place to protect the identities and the welfare of the children.

WARNING: Some people may find details of evidence contained in the remainder of this article distressing.

The woman said the boy arrived and was very quiet and upset. His teeth were yellow and not a normal size and, when she went to wash him, he was hysterical.

She said he was not properly toilet trained and would not move from his bed at night.

She said he would not call out if he needed her, even on occasions when he was sick.

She said he did not know how to wash or brush his teeth or hands and when he arrived first he would stay in the hallway and peep around the corner at them. That continued for a couple of weeks.

The boy would never ask for food and would eat anything that was put in front of him. On the first night with her, he ate two dinners and checked the bowl to see that it would not run out.

She said the boy would not move unless he was told to move. He did not react when hugged and did not appear to know how to give or receive a hug or a kiss.

She said he had access visits to his parents at first, but at one point did not appear to want to go.

One of his siblings then came to live with them and the boys were happy together, she said.

The other boy did not appear to know how to wash himself or use toilet paper and used to wander around the house at night. He had since settled but remained hyper-vigilant.

During cross examination, she was asked about saying how one of the boys had run past his mother and ignored her during an access visit.

It was put to her that the access visit was at a play centre and there were lots of distractions in the background such as his siblings and play areas.

'Extremely dirty and neglected'

Another foster parent told how two of the children came into her care were "extremely dirty and neglected". One of the children had hardly any hair and it was full of lice eggs. She was thin and did not look healthy, the witness said.

The woman became upset as she described seeing bruising and scarring on the children. She said the skin on the boy's thigh looked like it was "gouged out". She accepted on cross examination that it had healed and was an old injury.

She said the children had no care skills around washing or brushing teeth. They never asked for food and never took it themselves. They had difficulty with some foods and everything had to be chopped up small for them in the early days, she said.

She said the children seemed terrified and would hide if they had visitors to the house.

He said the children's behaviour deteriorated after access visits with their family. Their school behaviour would suffer and their sleep would be disturbed.

Their interactions with their foster family were affected and they would use inappropriate language. She said eventually she had to ask social workers which was more important, their school work and behaviour or their access visits.

The visits eventually stopped and their behaviour improved. She said their parents had occasionally asked through social workers to be sent photographs of the children at Christmas and on a First Communion. They also asked for school reports.

She said they had to consult Tusla and a psychologist when the children displayed inappropriate behaviour for their age.

They were also interviewed by gardaí and were very upset afterwards.

During cross examination by defence counsel Antoinette Simon, representing one of the children’s aunts, she agreed she had kept a diary and had described how the girl had "a different personality" for each person she was dealing with and that she had a convincing way of making up stories and adding to a tale.

She had also written "yet the small terrified girl is in there".

It was also put to her that one of the children had said in a garda interview that she had told him to write something down about what he says happened to him. She said she would never have told the child what to write.

Garda evidence

Various gardaí gave evidence about contacts with the family dating back to three years before the children were taken into care. One garda said he saw a then six-year-old boy standing on the main street of a town in 2013.

He stayed with the child but said it was at least five minutes before his father arrived onto the street from a nearby park.

He noticed the child was dirty and soiled and referred the matter to Tusla. Another garda described how he had been called to the local primary school after the boy, who was then eight, had left the school without permission.

He went to the house to find the boy at home watching TV. He said the house was in a very dirty state and there was no food in the presses.

There was a pile of laundry on top of the washing machine and the house was filthy. The boy's mother said she was in the middle of cleaning up and was about to go shopping.

The garda said he noticed there were baby bottles with what looked like Coca-Cola in them while others had sour milk.

Gardaí were called the house after a complaint was made about a young girl being up at 5.30am.

The garda said he arrived at 8.30 and was told by the girl’s father that she had refused to go back to bed. He noticed a younger child walking around with just a tee shirt and no nappy, he said.

Six people including the boy’s parents, aunts and uncles between them face a total of 91 charges. The charges include rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation on dates between August 2014 and April 2016 in relation to three children.

The parents also face charges of neglecting five of their children. All six defendants deny the charges. The trial continues tomorrow.