Page last updated at 13:40 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

Mother jailed for suffocating son

Tara Haigh
Tara Haigh denied murdering Billy, saying she found him collapsed

A mother from Surrey has been jailed for life for suffocating her three-year-old son.

Tara Haigh, 24, of Guildford, was found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey and ordered to serve at least 10 years.

During her trial, jurors heard Haigh killed her son Billy by smothering him with a pillow at their home.

Within a few hours of his death, in November 2005, she had logged on to an internet dating site and arranged to meet a man, the court was told.

After attempts to resuscitate Billy in hospital failed, Haigh went to her parents' home, where she used the computer.

Billy was a well and happy child whose life was cruelly taken away from him
Judge Peter Thornton QC

Sally Howes QC, prosecuting, said: "An examination of the computer showed that within a few hours of her son's death, she was accessing messages sent to her by men on the website Girls Date Free."

She posted a message on the website saying her son had died from a tumour behind the ear.

Haigh had denied murdering Billy, claiming she had put him to bed but found he had collapsed when she checked on him later.

Ms Howes told the court that the child had been on the social services' at-risk register for neglect.

Haigh had learning difficulties and Billy's father was in prison for assaulting her.

Jurors heard that in January 2005 an ambulance had been called to a previous address where Billy and his parents were living.

'Vulnerable child'

The caller said Billy had stopped breathing, but he was found to be fit and well and a specialist could find nothing wrong with him.

Sentencing Haigh, Judge Peter Thornton QC said it was not clear why she had killed her son.

He told her: "Billy was a well and happy child whose life was cruelly taken away from him.

"You killed your son, a vulnerable child in your care and protection.

"You were, I accept, a good and loving parent doing the best you could.

"There was no accusation of cruelty and losing your child, all be it by your own hand, must have been a punishment for you.

"The circumstances of Billy's death do not bear thinking about.

"He would have struggled for his life, fighting against his mother whom he had loved and trusted, until he was overpowered by your superior strength and will."

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