‘Unbearable pressure’ drove mother to kill children

A DEPRESSED mother who smothered her three disabled children as they slept before attempting suicide has been detained under a hospital order.
Gary Clarence pictured with threeyearold Ben and MaxGary Clarence pictured with threeyearold Ben and Max
Gary Clarence pictured with threeyearold Ben and Max

At the Old Bailey in London yesterday, Tania Clarence, 43, admitted the manslaughter by diminished responsibility of Olivia, four, and three-year-old twins Ben and Max at her home in New Malden, south-west London, over the Easter holidays.

Afterwards, her investment banker husband Gary Clarence said he hoped no family would ever again have to endure the “unbearable pressure” that eventually overwhelmed his wife.

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He said “lessons need to be learned” from his wife’s story of “dedication and love” which turned to “despair and utter hopelessness”.

In a statement issued on his behalf, solicitor Richard Egan blamed medical professionals and social services for contributing to Clarence’s depression.

He said: “The loss of the children’s lives at the hands of their mother who cherished them is a tragedy explained by her severe depressive illness. But it is also a tragedy from which lessons need to be learned.


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“Tania’s depression was certainly not assisted by the constant pressure placed on the family by some individuals within the medical profession and social services who could not agree with Tania and Gary Clarence’s stance of prioritising quality of life for their children and who were not readily willing to submit the children to operations and other interventions that they felt were not appropriate in the circumstances.

“Gary Clarence will be making no personal comment until the conclusion of all internal investigations and reviews.

“In due course he will be assisting Kingston Borough Council in their review of the decisions taken in this case, and he hopes to be able to ensure that never again will a family have to endure the unbearable pressure that eventually overwhelmed the resources of his wife.”

The court heard the children, who suffered from the muscle-weakening condition MSA type-2, were found dead – tucked into their beds with toys arranged around their heads, posed as if on a bier lying in state.

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Days before the killings, Clarence’s husband took their eight-year-old daughter, who is not disabled, on a holiday to South Africa, leaving the defendant alone with her other children, and she then gave their nanny a day off.

Sentencing her to a hospital order yesterday, Mr Justice Sweeney said there was “clear and convincing” evidence that she was suffering a “major depressive episode”.

He said: “The prosecution accept that you loved all four of your children. Indeed, there is a substantial body of evidence that they were happy and well looked after and you were grief-stricken that Olivia, Max and Ben were destined to die early and before you.”

Quoting a psychiatrist, he said: “If you had not been suffering from mental illness at the time, you would not have killed your children.”

He said that while the Old Bailey was “not the forum” to judge the conduct of the health professionals and social workers, the effect of their actions on Clarence’s state of mind was an “important factor”.

A Kingston Council spokesman confirmed a serious case review was under way.


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