A MOTHER wept uncontrollably in the dock yesterday as a court heard how she smothered her disabled twin sons with a nappy before killing their older sister and trying to kill herself during a fit of depression.
Tania Clarence, 43, appeared before the Old Bailey after admitting responsibility for the deaths of Olivia, four, and three-year-old Ben and Max at the family home in New Malden, London, over Easter.
After just 20 minutes of listening to details of the case, including the “grotesque” discovery of the twins’ bodies, she became too upset and was excused by Mr Justice Sweeney.
Her husband, investment banker Gary, and other family members stayed in court.
Opening the case for the prosecution, Zoe Johnson QC said all three of the children had suffered from the condition SMA type 2, and had the Clarences known before the twins were born prematurely on a holiday to Portugal, they would have agreed to abort the pregnancy.
Children with SMA type 2 have weakness in their muscles which means they cannot stand unaided, may have difficulty with other movements and are vulnerable to respiratory infections.
Ms Johnson said Clarence’s husband had taken their eight-year-old daughter on a holiday to South Africa on Friday, 18 April, leaving the defendant alone with her other children, having given the nanny a day off.
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Ms Johnson said: “We suggest that the defendant took this opportunity to end the lives of her three disabled children.”
According to Clarence, the killings took place some time between midnight and 3am on 22 April, Ms Johnson said. “She smothered the boys first whilst they were sleeping using a nappy.
“She found it much harder to kill Olivia, and wrote a letter to her husband in the time between killing the boys and killing Olivia.”
The deaths were discovered later that night after the family nanny, called Jade, was phoned by Clarence’s mother who had tried to contact her during the day but without success.
Jade was accompanied by a friend Daniel Magagnin and a pastor.
Ms Johnson said: “They got to her bedroom door and she opened the door a fraction. She was holding a towel. Mrs Clarence kept asking them to leave and leave her alone. She was whispering.
“Daniel asked Mrs Clarence if she wanted him to pray for her; she told him to go and she was a private person.
“Mrs Clarence started to say, ‘It’s too late, it’s too late, there’s nothing you can do to help them’.
“Jade gave Mrs Clarence a hug. Daniel noticed blood on her wrist and called 999.
“He opened the twins’ door and discovered the dead bodies.”
The court heard Clarence handed her nanny a letter, which read: “I’m so sorry I had to do this but I could not carry on. I also could not leave the children with Gary. It would have been too much for him.
“Without you I most likely would have done this a lot sooner.”
Last month, the Crown accepted Clarence’s guilty plea to the manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.
Mr Justice Sweeney reserved sentencing until Tuesday.
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