Iron Maiden Found in Uday Hussein's Playground

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An iron maiden torture device found in the I.O.C. compound, Baghdad

No profile of Uday Hussein, the psychotic elder son of Iraq's deposed dictator, is complete without a mention of his sadistic reign as Iraq's sports czar. In his capacity as head of Iraq's Olympic committee and also of its soccer federation, he is known to have ordered the torture of athletes who performed below his expectations.

A bad day on the field for a player on the national soccer squad could result in savage retribution: Players had their feet scalded and toenails ripped off for failing to win tournaments. Allegations of torture had even resulted in investigations by international sports governing bodies, most notably soccer's FIFA, but these had failed to produce conclusive evidence — hardly surprising, since no player would dare admit to suffering such abuse, for fear of even worse.

On Saturday, however, TIME found what may be the first tangible evidence pointing to torture in Uday's own backyard, the administrative compound of the Iraqi national Olympic committee in central Baghdad. Hidden in a pile of dead leaves, not 20 yards from the building housing the Iraqi Football Association, was that must-have appliance of every medieval dungeon: an iron maiden.

Around 7 feet tall, three feet across and deep enough to house a grown man, the sarcophagus-shaped device is essentially a large, metal closet with long spikes on the inside door that closes to impale its victim. Its name derives from its mummy shape and the beatific woman's face depicted on its headpiece. The one found in Baghdad was clearly worn from use, its nails having lost some of their sharpness. It lay on its side within view of Uday's first-floor offices in the soccer association. Ironically, the torture device was brought to TIME's attention by a group of looters who had been stripping the compound of anything of value. They had left behind the iron maiden, believing it to be worthless.