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Theresa Riggi found dead in high security hospital

File photo of Theresa Riggi, who has been found dead in a Nottinghamshire secure hospital. Picture: PA

File photo of Theresa Riggi, who has been found dead in a Nottinghamshire secure hospital. Picture: PA

  • by JONATHAN WHITELAW
 

A MOTHER who stabbed her three young children to death in their Edinburgh home has been found dead in a high-security hospital.

Theresa Riggi, 50, was jailed for 16 years for killing her eight-year-old twins, Austin and Luke, and her five-year-old daughter Cecilia in August 2010.

Last night, police issued a statement saying US-born Riggi was found dead at Rampton Secure Hospital in Nottinghamshire today morning.

A Nottinghamshire Police spokeswoman said her death was not being treated as suspicious.

She said officers were called to the hospital just after 2am and it is understood Riggi was dead when they arrived. A report was being prepared for the coroner.

Riggi was initially charged with murdering her three children but admitted the lesser charge of culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The American had been moved from Cornton Vale Prison, near Stirling, after a string of alleged attacks against her by fellow inmates.

During her trial, the court heard Riggi had a “possessive love” for her children and a report into her mental state identified narcissistic, paranoid and hysterical personality disorders.

Riggi and the three children had moved to Edinburgh from Skene in Aberdeenshire after the break-up of her marriage to their father, Pasquale Riggi, 50.

At the time, she was embroiled in a dispute over child custody and access with Mr Riggi, a petroleum engineer who was working in Aberdeen.

Emergency services were called to her home in Edinburgh’s Slateford Road following a gas explosion that occurred at the house a day before another hearing in the dispute was scheduled to take place.

Riggi was seen throwing herself from a second-floor balcony but an eye-witness broke her fall and was able to deflect her on to the bonnet of a car. She was badly injured and also appeared to have self-inflicted stab wounds which were still visible on her neck and wrists.

Police later found her children’s bloodstained bodies lying side by side in a bedroom. They had been stabbed to death, each suffering eight wounds.

Throughout the trial, which began in April of 2011, further gruesome details emerged about the killings. The couple, who moved to the UK in 1997, had spoken on the phone 48 hours before the children were found and, during that conversation, Riggi asked her husband if he was going to take the children away from her. Mr Riggi had replied that she had left him no choice. The court then heard that Riggi responded by saying: “Say goodbye then” before hanging up the phone. It later emerged that Riggi, a violinist and music teacher, had used a different knife to kill each of the children, all while a song called Angel played in the background.

Following her arrest for the killings, court psychiatrists examined Riggi and diagnosed her as suffering from a number of personality disorders, among them narcissistic, paranoid and histrionic personality disorders. The experts agreed that these traits contributed to her motivation and distorted her view of the world.

Speaking with a hospital chaplain after the killings, Riggi said: “I want to be with my babies. I’m not meant to be here. I’m meant to be with my babies.”

The examination and diagnoses became an influential factor in the outcome of the case. As a result, the murder charges levelled at Riggi were reduced to culpable homicide. She was sent to prison for 16 years, reduced from the mandatory life sentence normally associated with murder charges. She was jailed on 27 April, 2011.

During the trial, Lord Bracadale said that she had a genuine but abnormal and possessive love of her children. As the judge passed sentence, he told her that a “devastating family tragedy” had resulted from her “ghastly and grotesque” actions.

According to her QC, Donald Findlay, Riggi, through no fault of her own, suffered from a collection of personality disorders and was “not in touch with reality” at the time of the offences.

Her defence was that she had believed Mr Riggi was a genuine danger to the children, claims that were rejected as “not true” by the Crown.

After sentencing, Riggi was imprisoned in Scotland’s only all-female prison, Cornton Vale in Stirling. Several inmates told that the Californian hid in her cell all day for fear that she would be attacked.

In November of that year, a female prisoner was charged for assaulting the child killer in an incident where Riggi was apparently slashed. As a result of the wounds, she was moved to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

Speaking in an interview after his children were killed, Mr Riggi said he was comforted by the belief that his children were in “a safe place” with God. He said: “They are not here with us physically but they are with us spiritually, and that helps.

“I try not to think about their death and I think about what they are experiencing now.

I think they are in a safe place.”

 
 
 

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