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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Probation for mother who killed sons

Robert and Richard Turnbull died in their beds
A mother who killed her two profoundly disabled sons has walked free from court after she admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

Janquil Turnbull, 52, gave her two sons Robert, 23, and Richard, 20, painkillers before smothering them with a pillow on 19 October last year at their home in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight.

The judge, Mr Justice Turner, sentenced her to three years probation after she denied murder, saying there was no need for him to impose a custodial sentence.

Try to regain for yourself in your declining years something of which you can be proud

Mr Justice Turner
"Because of the 20 years or so of struggle which you have faced I am confident that it will take you many years to attain a semblance of normality in your life again," he told Mrs Turnbull at Winchester Crown Court.

The judge called for an inquiry into the family's case after hearing how they had been treated by various authorities.

"I don't begin to know enough about it to make strictures but the case causes me tremendous concern," he said.

The family's solicitor, Michael Holmes, said after the sentence: "Of course she is relieved that the court proceedings are now at an end but my view is that they will both be serving a life sentence.

"I'm very grateful for what the judge said and I'm very grateful for him calling for an inquiry into how social services dealt with the Turnbulls over the years."

'Forgive me'

The court heard that Mrs Turnbull and her husband Ronald had looked after their sons, who suffered severely from cerebral palsy, since they were born without a break.

Robert and Richard could not speak, had no mobility, severely limited vision and the mental capacity of a six-month-old baby, the court was told.

In October, police were called to the cottage by Mrs Turnbull after she had dialled 999.

She was sitting on the stairs sobbing, shaking and crying when they arrived.

She said she had given her sons painkillers prescribed for her neck pain before suffocating them with a pillow.

They were just two poor little people who have suffered enough

Janquil Turnbull
Mrs Turnbull told the police she had been having paranoia attacks about social services taking her sons into care.

"They were just two poor little people who have suffered enough," she said.

"I think it's about time the suffering stopped. I brought them here and God help me I took them away.

"I beg them to forgive me. It's a nightmare."

Baroness Ann Mallalieu QC, defending, said the family had been forced to wage a constant battle with the authorities over housing.

'Drain on resources'

She said various social services departments which had dealt with them were "unable or unwilling" to provide the necessary support.

Mr and Mrs Turnbull were also told they were a drain on the island's resources when they met the Isle of Wight's Liberal Democrat MP Dr Peter Brand last October, the court heard.

"I think I should fail if I don't invite the authorities, whoever they may be in this case, to start some form of inquiry to see that all was done that reasonably could, in a humanitarian manner, be done for this family," Mr Justice Turner said.

Mrs Turnbull, who is suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress and a degenerative neurological disorder, shook constantly as she stood in the dock and was barely able to enter pleas to the two charges.

Speaking after the case, Jim Hoskisson, chairman of the disability charity Scope and parent of a young woman with cerebral palsy, said he was aware of the pressures felt by the families of disabled people.

"We know that parents can feel isolated and sometimes face very demanding situations," he said.

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