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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 14:30 GMT
Father cleared of murdering son
Andrew Wragg arriving at court
Andrew Wragg had denied murdering 10-year-old Jacob

A former SAS soldier who smothered his terminally-ill son with a pillow has been found not guilty of murder.

Andrew Wragg, 38, of Worthing, West Sussex, had denied murdering Jacob in July 2004, but admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility.

Ten-year-old Jacob had the degenerative disease Hunter Syndrome and was deaf and using a wheelchair.

Wragg was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, at Lewes Crown Court.

The trial judge, Mrs Justice Anne Rafferty, said the case had been "exceptional", adding there was "nothing to be gained" from sending Wragg to jail.

But she added she would not have been as lenient had it not been for the "complicit" knowledge of his former wife, and Jacob's mother, Mary Wragg.

Mrs Wragg said her husband asked her to take their youngest son George, then aged six, to her mother's home for the night on 24 July.

Mary Wragg arriving at court
I am proud to have loved and cared for such a spirited, happy and unique individual
Mary Wragg, Jacob's mother

She told the court about the call Wragg made to her while she was out, saying: "He said he had killed Jacob. He said he had called the police.

"I could not believe what he was saying."

Mrs Wragg said she would never have left Jacob if she had known what was going to happen.

However, Mrs Justice Rafferty concluded: "I have no doubt she was complicit.

"Had I concluded otherwise I should have formed a harsher view of you," she told Wragg.

"I accept that you would not have taken Jacob's life had you, for a moment, thought that she disagreed with what you were to do.

"Your then wife, late that night, removed your younger son from his bed and drove via a late-opening shop to a lay-by where she stopped the car.

"Only after you had telephoned her with the news that Jacob was dead did she drive on to her mother's flat and without any prior arrangement leave George with her."

Wragg had told the trial that he and his wife were in an "impossible and hopeless" situation looking after Jacob.

We're very pleased with the sentence
Bob Wragg, Andrew Wragg's father

Speaking outside the court on Monday, Mrs Wragg said she was shocked by the sentence given to her ex-husband.

"It has been extremely difficult to sit and listen as the dignity of my little boy has been destroyed in an effort to reduce the impact of his death," she said.

"Jacob's condition has been used as an excuse for this crime and I find it appalling that anyone would try to portray him as being less deserving of his life, or less entitled to enjoy every precious moment his condition allowed.

"There are many sensitive issues raised by this tragedy which I know have affected other families, but I just need to say, as Jacob's mother, how proud I am to have loved and cared for such a spirited, happy and unique individual.

"I would like to thank the police and prosecution for their hard work and commitment on Jacob's behalf in securing a conviction - however I am shocked by the sentence and the message it sends to others."

Jacob Wragg
Jacob was left deaf by the degenerative disease

Wragg's father Bob said: "We're very pleased with the sentence and all the sympathy shown by the judge.

"We would like to thank, on behalf of Andy, his legal team and all those who have supported us through these sad times.

"We now would ask that we be at last allowed to grieve the loss of Jacob who we all loved dearly."

Mr Wragg added that his son was "fine", but would not be making any statement himself.

The prosecution had argued Jacob's death was a "selfish killing" carried out because Wragg could no longer cope with looking after the boy.

Philip Katz QC, in his opening speech of the 10-day trial, said that while Wragg may have been feeling "disappointment, sadness, loss, fear and anger", he was not suffering from an abnormality of mind which would "substantially impair his mental responsibility for his actions".

But Wragg told police his son had wanted him to end his life and the jury accepted his plea of manslaughter.

Commenting on the outcome, Detective Chief Inspector Steve Johns, of Sussex Police, said it had been a sad and difficult case.

"Our sympathies go to Jacob's family and friends at this time," he said.

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