Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Frances Inglis killed son 'with love in her heart'

By Margaret Ryan and Sarah White
BBC News

Frances Inglis has been given a life sentence after being found guilty of killing her 22-year-old son Thomas. What drove a mother to inject her own child with a fatal dose of heroin when she was already on bail for a previous attempt at taking his life?

Frances Inglis
Frances Inglis was described by her son Alex as 'constantly frantic'

When Frances Inglis killed her own son with a lethal injection of heroin she did so with "love in her heart", she told an Old Bailey jury.

She believed what she was performing was an "act of mercy" after Thomas suffered serious head injuries when he jumped from a moving ambulance in July 2007.

Judge Brian Barker QC told Inglis that although the court could understand the "unhappiness" she was experiencing, what she had intended was a "terrible thing".

He said: "You knew you were breaking society's conventions, you knew you were breaking the law, and you knew the consequences."

He told her she has to serve a minimum of nine years in jail, although the days she has already spent in custody would count as part of that.

Heroin plea

The prosecution argued from an early stage that after Thomas had been injured, Inglis decided her son would not want to live the life he was leading.

And during the trial a picture emerged of a mother who believed she knew what was best for her brain-damaged son.

Inglis, who was doing a nursing diploma, refused to believe an encouraging prognosis from one of the doctors at Queen's Hospital in Romford, Essex.

As she sat by her son's hospital bedside, she said: "All I saw was horror, pain and tragedy."

Thomas Inglis
Thomas Inglis suffered head injuries when he jumped out of an ambulance

Her eldest son Alex told the court how his mother was convinced Tom was being "tortured" by constant pain.

"She was constantly frantic and crying and just in a crazy state. You couldn't speak to her," he said.

Thomas had been injured in a fight outside a pub one Friday night but it was when he came out of the ambulance that he suffered the serious head injuries.

Police said they understood Tom was being taken to hospital against his wishes and that the ambulance door opened three times.

Inglis, who is now 57, quickly began researching her son's condition on the internet.

It was to a neighbour, Sharon Robinson, that she turned to ask for help in finding heroin to kill her son - 10 days after he was injured.

But Ms Robinson, who described Inglis as a "wonderful mother who helped others less fortunate than herself", instead alerted the police.

Ms Robinson told the BBC: "She said her son was lying in a hospital bed and in her mind he was dead. The hospital was infusing all sorts of poisons and drugs into him.

"She wanted to know if I could get heroin for her to kill him and take her own life."

"She was hysterical to say the least."

Neighbour Sharon Robinson said Mrs Inglis wanted to know where she could get heroin

Ms Robinson told the BBC her close friend of 15 years had been screaming and crying so much the police had had to intervene.

She said: "She was mad and so upset. She couldn't be consoled. She was flailing her arms about. When I tried restraining her I could smell drink on her breath.

"I asked her to think about her other children, but she said they had their father and Tom needed to be released from being this shell of a person more.

"To Frankie her son was dead once he fell from the back of an ambulance.

"But when I called the police it made matters worse. They had to explain to me why she hated the police and ambulance service so much."

Planned moves

Undeterred Inglis, of Dagenham, east London, managed to get hold of street heroin and injected her son as he lay in his hospital bed.

She left thinking he was dead and went for a walk with her dog expecting to be arrested. Instead she was called back to hospital to be told he had been resuscitated.

Arrested later for attempted murder she lied about her involvement because she wanted to be free to "release" her son.

At her home police found letters Inglis had written, one of which read: "People keep saying Tom is not suffering. How can they know how he feels."

Having survived the murder attempt, Thomas was moved to a rehabilitation centre in Hertfordshire.

His mother, then on bail for his attempted murder, was banned from seeing him. But 14 months after her first failed attempt, she again injected her son with heroin and this time succeeded in killing him.

She had managed to get 10 packets of heroin for £200.

Planning her next move, she checked patient notes to work out when she would be alone in the room long enough to kill her son.

At home she had left instructions on running the home, worried about her youngest son Michael and her dog. She said her family had no idea what she intended to do.

She put a picture of Tom and a prayer Tom's girlfriend had given her on a bed, knowing she would be arrested for what she was about to do.

After drinking some brandy in the hospital car park she used an assumed name to get into the nursing home.

'No choice'

Alone with her son, she said: "I took the syringe and injected him and held him and told him everything would be fine."

When staff tried to get in she said she had HIV. She barricaded herself in using an oxygen cylinder and put strong glue in the lock.

Frances Inglis
Frances Inglis believed she was performing an act of mercy

Inglis, of Dagenham, who had denied murder and attempted murder, broke down in tears as she gave evidence saying she had "no choice" but to do what she did.

"The definition of murder is to take someone's life with malice in your heart. I did it with love in my heart, for Tom, so I don't see it as murder. I knew what I was doing was against the law."

Inglis, who was wearing a green cardigan, sat quietly as the judge outlined her actions during her sentencing.

He called the case "highly unusual and very sad" and described Inglis as a "devoted mother" who was "highly regarded" for her work in the community.

One woman who had worked with her at a school for people with learning disabilities in Ilford when she was a learning support assistant, described Inglis as "loving, honourable and trustworthy".

But everything changed for Inglis the day she got a knock on her door from the police one Saturday morning to tell her that her son had been injured.



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