Police found piles of human waste around the property where the three children were kept REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

A couple in California were arrested on Thursday, 1 March, after police discovered that they had been making their children live in a small plywood container. Daniel Panico, 73, and Mona Kirk, 51, were charged with wilful cruelty towards a child and held on a bail of $100,000 (£72,580).

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department was conducting an area check of a property in Joshua Tree when they discovered the three children, aged 14, 13 and 11, who were identified as the suspects' own wards. According to the police report, the minors were allegedly being made to live inside a plywood box, approximately 20 feet long by 4 feet high by 10 feet wide for the past four years.

"The victims were found to have an inadequate amount of food and were living in an unsuitable and unsafe environment due to the conditions located on the property," the department's press release informed.

Officers also located a travel trailer at the site, which appeared to be abandoned. They found 30 to 40 cats roaming freely inside.

The property itself looked to be used as a dumping ground for old containers, furniture and broken children's toys. Mounds of garbage and human faeces were also discovered around the place and the area did not have electricity or running water.

Children and Family Service took custody of the three victims following the arrest of the parents.

This recent discovery brings to mind the January case of David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, who kept their 13 children shackled and underfed in their California home.

"If you can imagine being 17 years old and appearing to be a 10-year-old, being chained to a bed and being malnourished and injuries associated with that, I would call that torture," police chief Captain Gregg Fellows said at the time of the arrests.