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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Community shocked by murder charges
Angela Cannings arrives at Winchester Crown Court
Angela Cannings regretted being sterilised
Baby murderer Angela Cannings was described in court as popular and happy within a community shocked by her arrest.

Defence lawyers and witnesses painted a picture of a normal woman who had married young and tried hard to be a good mother.

Cannings had been sterilised in October 1999 - just one month before son Matthew died.


She always came across as a very good mother who looked after her children

Acquaintance
She told the jury at Winchester Crown Court that the sterilisation was something she bitterly regretted, and that she would try for another child if she could.

Her large family has supported her throughout the two-and-a-half years since her arrest, as has husband Terry.

She met Terry, who is 10 years older than she is, in 1984, when she was 19 and they were both working at a supermarket.

They married in 1987, with Cannings bringing up Terry's son Stephen from his previous marriage.

Strain on marriage

She became pregnant and had a daughter, Gemma, who died at the age of 12 weeks in 1989.

Then she had a son, Jason, who died aged seven weeks in 1991, and finally another son, Matthew, who died at 18 weeks in 1999.

Giving evidence she said the murder charges had been a strain on her marriage but she and her husband had coped and were still together.

Mr Cannings had told the jury he still loved his wife.

The couple are well known in Salisbury with Terry Cannings a baker at Tesco and Angela Cannings working at the same store.

'Dreadful thing'

One woman who knows Angela Cannings, but did not want to be named, said everyone who knew her was shocked that she had been accused of murdering Jason and Matthew.

"Everyone who knows Angela only ever had sympathy for what had happened with the deaths of her children," she said.

"It would be fair to say everyone was shocked when she was accused of doing such a dreadful thing. I have not met anyone who believes she did it.

"She always came across as a very good mother who looked after her children.

Catholic family

"We just thought what had happened was a terrible tragedy.

"A lot of people did seem to know about the cot deaths but she never spoke to me about it. She seemed to want to get on with her life."

Cannings came from a Catholic family, with her mother Mary having converted to Catholicism when she married.

Angela Cannings' father had objected to her having a relationship with an older man, when she originally met Terry.

Police interviews

But Cannings maintained she had a good relationship with both parents.

She has three younger siblings Tina, 34, Claire, 33 and Andrew, 31, who she had helped her parents bring up.

During 300 pages of police interviews played to the court, Cannings told officers she had been "average" academically but loved sports, particularly hockey and tennis when at school.

She went to a Catholic school in Salisbury where she was taught by nuns.


Click here to go to BBC Wiltshire
See also:

16 Apr 02 | England
Baby deaths mother found guilty
12 Mar 02 | England
Mother denies murdering her sons
28 Feb 02 | England
Expert view in baby deaths trial
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