-A couple who face 22 charges of child abuse, assault, attempted murder, rape and sexual assault have pleaded not guilty.

The couple have been married for 18 years and lived in Springs, east of Johannesburg. They were arrested in May 2014 after their eldest son, then 11-years-old, escaped and raised the alarm. The couple may not be identified to protect the identity of their children.

The couple sat at opposite ends of the dock in the High Court in Pretoria, and refused to look at each other. The husband read from the Bible during short adjournments.

The state alleges in May 2014 the couple's eldest son, fled to the neighbours for help. His father went to fetch him and allegedly severely assaulted him with his fists.

The neighbours reported the matter to the police. When the police arrived at the house in Springs, they found the mother and the remaining four children.

According to the charge sheet the house was dirty, neglected and in a terrible state. Rats and mice were visible in the house. The children were underfed and some of their teeth were rotten.

Pornographic DVDs, drugs, shock fireworks with nails pasted to it, handcuffs and gas pistols were found on the property. The father pretended to be his wife's brother when the police arrived and made a case of a missing child for the boy.

The boy was found four days later at his aunt in Warden where his father hid him from police.

They also allegedly never took the oldest children to school and neglected the mental and physical care for their children

The parents are charged with hitting, handcuffing, burning, shooting projectiles from gas pistols and pepper spraying their five children, three girls then aged 16, 4, 3 and two boys, then aged 11 and 2.

They also allegedly never took the oldest children to school and neglected the mental and physical care for their children.

During his plea explanation the husband denied that he repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted his eldest daughter, but admitted to once touching her private parts, two months before his arrest, as he thought she wasn't his daughter at the time.

He also pleaded not guilty to trying to kill his eldest son but admitted to assaulting him. He says he was under the influence of drugs and can't remember what happened.

He however admitted to hiding the child from the police as he was afraid the police would punish him if they saw the abused boy.

The husband pleaded guilty to trying to interfere with a police investigation by lying to the police.

In the mother's plea explanation she says she could not intervene or stop the abuse by her husband as she was also a victim of his assaults, constant humiliation, physical and sexual abuse. She pleaded not guilty to all the charges against her.

The couple also deny making and owning drugs as well as forcing the eldest daughter to sell and use the drugs. The court ruled

that the eldest daughter and son may testify on camera.

State advocate, Jennifer Cronje, told the court both children are terrified of their parents. The boy, now 13-years-old, will testify through an intermediary and the daughter, now 18, over CCTV cameras.

The trial continues.