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Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 14:49 GMT
Mother's 'unusual' actions over babies
Angela Cannings
Angela Cannings was jailed in April 2002
A mother convicted of killing her two baby sons should have telephoned emergency services for help, a court has heard.

Prosecutors said it was unusual that instead of dialling 999 Angela Cannings tried to resuscitate the youngsters herself.

They rejected claims Cannings' lawyers have made to the Court of Appeal that she was wrongly convicted of murdering her two sons, seven-week-old Jason in 1991 and 18-week-old Matthew in 1999.

Her counsel suggested that the boys could have died from cot death syndrome and that there was family history to back the argument.

However, the Crown's counsel Paul Dunkels QC said Cannings was alone with the child in each incident and on several other occasions when the babies had experienced what was known as an "acute life-threatening event".

In the court on Friday, he said he felt it was implausible to say she was "an isolated mother" who would naturally be alone with her children for most of the time.

Her husband Terry worked long hours, but nevertheless spent much of his time in the family home, and members of the couple's extended family called in frequently.

The reaction you would have expected would be to ring for an ambulance
Paul Dunkels QC
Yet the traumatic events suffered by the boys - and by a daughter who died in similar circumstances years earlier - all occurred when no-one else was present, Mr Dunkels said.

Cannings, a 40-year-old shop assistant, was found guilty by a jury of eight women and four men at Winchester Crown Court in April last year of the murders.

She was not accused over the death of her first child, Gemma, at the age of 13 weeks in 1989.

'Strange behaviour'

Mr Dunkels said the jury was told that Cannings should have telephoned for an ambulance rather than trying to resuscitate the children herself.

"We invited the jury to consider that this was unusual behaviour in the circumstances. It was unusual in the sense that the reaction you would have expected would be to ring for an ambulance," he said.

"The failure to ring for an ambulance until her husband arrived from work was strange behaviour."

Earlier Michael Mansfield QC, for Cannings, said she had faced prejudice because of the mere existence of three deaths in the family.

The risk she faced was that the jury would think it could not be coincidence and therefore the deaths must have occurred at the hands of the defendant.

Yet the instances of multiple deaths by murder and by cot death were equally extremely rare.

The hearing was adjourned until Monday.

Baby murder witness 'irrelevant'
04 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire
Doubts cast over baby deaths case
02 Nov 03  |  Real Story
Mother cleared of killing babies
11 Jun 03  |  Berkshire

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