A father whose three children were smothered by their mother said he would stand by his wife after she was confined indefinitely to a psychiatric hospital.
Tania Clarence used a nappy to suffocate three-year old twins Ben and Max and their four-year old sister Olivia, who all suffered from a degenerative muscle-wasting condition.
Husband Gary, 45, was in South Africa on holiday with his eldest daughter when the killings took place at the couple’s £2 million home in New Malden this Easter.
His wife – who left a note saying she was ‘so, so sorry’ – denied murder but admitted the manslaughter of her three children.
In her sentencing at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Sweeney said she had suffered a ‘major depressive episode’ because she was ‘grief stricken’ as all three were ‘destined to die before her’, he added it was ‘clear she loved her children’.
“Gary, I need to tell you how difficult it is for me to take Liv’s life. I am so ghastly and I feel every ounce of it for doing this. The boys were bad enough. I am struggling with Liv. I waited until the boys were asleep. The same with Liv. If I could take my own life and leave her to wait for you I would. But the wait will be as traumatic. This is so bad and I am so, so sorry. My only solace is that pain and future suffering I am saving her from.” – Olivia Clarence’s letter to her husband
Speaking on behalf of the family, solicitor Richard Egan said: ‘The Clarence family, and in particular Tania Clarence, dedicated their lives to the care and welfare of their three severely disabled children.
“Her love, commitment and tenacity in the face of the overwhelming responsibilities such care entailed was extraordinary.
“Ultimately, her story of dedication and love became a story of despair and utter hopelessness.”
Mr Clarence, a high-flying director with City bank Investec, praised his wife’s extraordinary love, commitment to her children and claimed pressure was put on the family by some within the medical profession and social services.
He added he was keen to assist Kingston Borough Council, who have launched an urgent review of the case after the hearing was told more than 60 doctors, social workers and other professionals had been involved with the care of the children during their short lives.
The court heard how the Clarence family had been supported by a social worker, Suzie Holley, for 15 months because of her experience in assisting with children aged under five.
However, just two months before the killings, they were assigned a less experienced social worker, Sarah Daws, who quit her job soon after.
“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 circumstance,” added Mr Egan.
Mr Justice Sweeney – who ordered Clarence be detained under section 37 of the Mental Health Act – insisted the deaths could not be classed as ‘mercy killings’.
He told Clarence: “You devoted yourself to providing optimal care for your children.
“Your increasing distress when witnessing the various medical interventions required and the demands placed upon you in the absence of emotional support from others overwhelmed your psychological resources.
“In the result you suffered the major depressive episode. What you did was the product of your mental illness. I am of the opinion that the most suitable method of disposing of the case is by means of a hospital order.
“You will not be released until you have recovered from your illness.”