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Tuesday, November 17, 1998 Published at 17:57 GMT


Mother jailed for killing her babies

Anthony showed no sign of wanting to care for babies, court heard

A young mother has been given two life sentences for murdering her two babies.

A unanimous jury at Bristol Crown Court found 25-year-old Donna Anthony guilty of murdering her 11-month-old daughter and four-month-old son.

Anthony's daughter Jordan died in Yeovil District Hospital in February 1996, although doctors initially believed she had been a victim of cot death.

When her second child, Michael, died in March 1997 and medical examination proved inconclusive, police began an investigation.

For the prosecution, Paul Dunkels QC said Anthony, from Southville, in Yeovil, smothered her children to take them "to the very edge of the line that divides life and death".

After both incidents she tried frantically to revive the babies, but they both died in hospital in Yeovil.

She had behaved in this way to attract attention or sympathy, or perhaps out of resentment towards her babies, or possibly due to an intricate combination of both.

She loved children 'to death'

Anthony denied doing anything to harm her children and claimed she loved them "to death".

Jordan was admitted to hospital four times over a six-month period when Anthony claimed she had stopped breathing, the court heard.

Pathologist Professor Peter Berry, for the prosecution, said in his opinion the two children had been suffocated and were not victims of sudden infant death syndrome or cot death.

Health worker Cecelia Clack told the court that Anthony had shown no signs of wanting to bond with or care for her children.

She had visited the defendant shortly after the birth of her first child and advised her to seek help from social services to develop parenting skills.

Under cross-examination from Mr Dunkels, Anthony denied killing her son, Michael, to "get sympathy" from her husband, Dean, from whom she had recently separated.

Anthony described in detail how she found both her children after they had stopped breathing and her frantic attempts to revive them.

But paramedics called to her house in Yeovil on the occasion of Michael's death found him cold with dilated eyes "like he had been dead some time".

'A very damaged young woman'

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Astill said: "You deprived your two young children of the right to live and it is difficult without knowing much more why you should have done this.

He said Anthony was a "very damaged young woman" and that he would be calling for an investigation into the events in her life that may have brought her to commit the crimes.

The judge continued: "It is a tragedy for those two children. It is a tragedy also for you. But I must pass upon you now the only sentence that I can pass by law. I have no choice."

After the hearing Anthony's estranged husband Dean said: "With the verdict that was given I hope my children can now finally be at peace and all the people involved in the case can start rebuilding and get on with their lives."

Detective Inspector Steve Foster, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: "It is a sad case and it is sad for the family and the two children.

"But at the end of the day we have done a professional job in putting the facts before the court. It was a difficult case and a sensitive case and that's all one can say."

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