Murder Charges Dropped For Mother Who Suffocated Three Disabled Children

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A British court accepted a diminished responsibility plea from a mother who admitted to suffocating her three disabled children “to end their suffering.”

Tania Clarence, 42, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and will not go to trial on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Clarence’s children, 3-year-old twin boys Ben and Max and 4-year-old daughter Olivia, all suffered type 2 spinal muscular atrophy. They were found smothered to death in their south west London home on April 22.

Her husband, Gary Clarence, and their oldest daughter, age 8, were in South Africa for a family gathering when the attack occurred.

Clarence left three notes before she attempted to kill herself. The family’s nanny and a neighbor rescued her.

They claim they found the house in darkness and a note at the bottom of the stairs written in Afrikaans which said: “Gary, don’t let [their elder daughter] go into the kids’ bedroom or our bedroom.”

“Gary, I don’t want to be saved,” a second note read. “Please, I can’t live with the horror of what I have done. I thought the pills would work. They didn’t.”

A third note was written to the nanny.

Clarence’s defense attorney, Jim Sturman QC, argued that his client was suffering from a mental disturbance at the time of the incident.

"This offending did occur whilst Mrs. Clarence was suffering from an abnormality of the mind,” Sturman told the court. "She was manifesting stress throughout the life of the children by their suffering and caring for three children with this condition was exhausting, distressing, debilitating and turned out to be overwhelming."

He asked that any time his client serves be in hospital.

Clarence is currently being detained at a secure hospital under the Mental Health Care Act.

She is expected to be sentenced Nov. 14.

Sources: The Guardian, BBC News

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Stephanie Chapman