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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Baby deaths mother to appeal
Angela Cannings at Winchester Crown Court
Angela Cannings went on trial in February
The woman sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two of her babies is to appeal against her conviction.

A jury of eight women and four men found Angela Cannings guilty on both counts, at Winchester Crown Court on Tuesday.

Cannings, 38, of Salisbury, had denied the murder charges and claimed both babies were victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

I have no doubt that for a woman like you to suffocate these babies there must have been something seriously wrong with you

Mrs Justice Hallett
But the jury decided she had smothered seven-week-old Jason in 1991 and 18-week-old Matthew in 1999.

Her first child, Gemma, died in 1989 at the age of 13 weeks but Cannings did not face charges in relation to her death.

Sentencing her, Mrs Justice Heather Hallett expressed regret at the mandatory life sentence: "It's not my decision to ask when you will be released but I intend to make it known in my remarks that in my own view you will never be a threat to anyone in the future".

"I have no doubt that for a woman like you to suffocate these babies there must have been something seriously wrong with you," she said.

'Exceedingly distressed'

Cannings broke down in tears as she was led away to the cells.

Her husband Terry, 48, who has stood by his wife since her arrest in 1999, was said to be distraught at the verdicts.

Her solicitor Bill Bache said his client was "exceedingly distressed - she cannot understand it".

Wiltshire Police said afterwards: "There are no winners in a case like this."

Cot deaths

Canning's three children were initially thought to be cot deaths victims.

However, police suspicions were aroused by the death of Matthew in 1999, and more detailed medical tests using advanced techniques were carried out.

Cannings was charged in March 2000 with the murder of all three infants, but the charge in relation to Gemma's death was later dropped.

After the verdict, Wiltshire Child Protection Unit announced a review into how cot deaths are investigated.

But parents' groups feared their reaction to cot deaths could lead to a witch hunt.

Joyce Epstein, of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, said: "The vast majority of these deaths are natural tragedies and to have unfair suspicion cast on parents who suffer this tragedy doesn't do anyone any good."

The BBC's Kim Barnes
"She slumped to her knees and sobbed as she was given two life sentences"
Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Symes
"Whole sad and harrowing case can only be described as a tragedy"
The NSPCC's Chris Cloak
"One to two children are killed each week by their parents or carers"

Click here to go to BBC Wiltshire
See also:

16 Apr 02 | Health
Controversy surrounds cot death
13 Mar 02 | England
Accused mother tells of grief
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