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Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2006, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Mother spared jail for baby death
Danielle Wails
Wails said she had been tied up by masked intruders
A mother who started a fire in which her four-month-old son died has been spared jail at Newcastle Crown Court.

Danielle Wails, 22, had claimed she was tied up by intruders who set the fire at her Newcastle home in August 2005.

She denied the murder of Alexander Gallon but her guilty plea to infanticide was accepted.

An independent review into Alexander's death concluded that his mother's behaviour was unpredictable and his death could not have been prevented.

However, the report's author - social care expert Catherine Weightman - found a series of shortcomings by the agencies involved with the family and has made a number of recommendations which must be implemented.

Wails was given a three-year community order with a period of supervision.

Alexander Gallon
Alexander Gallon was pronounced dead in hospital

Consultant psychiatrist Adrian East told the court he was satisfied she was suffering from post-natal depression and had been diagnosed with the symptoms in the months before the killing.

The court heard Wails had started the fire in the Cowgate area of Newcastle to try to win back the baby's father Robert Gallon, from whom she had split after a series of rows.

After Alexander's death, it emerged Wails had bombarded Mr Gallon and his family with phone calls and texts in a reconciliation bid.

Paul Sloan QC, prosecuting, said: "There were many other false claims. It would seem that the underlying purpose behind these false claims was to win back her partner's sympathies and support."

'Terrible incident'

Durham Police said they had reservations about Wails' account of the fire from the outset, but had kept an open mind throughout the investigation.

Fire officers searching her home discovered batteries from the recently installed smoke alarms had been removed and placed in her bedroom drawer, rendering them useless, the court heard.

Police also found the house keys hidden in the laundry basket upstairs - meaning the intruders could not have locked her in the house.

Brian Forster QC, defending, said Wails had been suffering from postnatal depression and was struggling to cope with caring for her son.

He said: "In the end she saw no way, no future for herself or for her child and this terrible incident, wicked as it was, came about."

The house that was set alight


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