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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 21:01 GMT
Mother cleared of killing sons
Angela Cannings' husband Terry stood by her throughout
A mother who was jailed for life for murdering her two baby sons, has had her conviction overturned.

Angela Cannings, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, was sentenced in April 2002 for the murder of seven-week-old Jason in 1991, and 18-week-old Matthew in 1999.

But on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal overturned the conviction, saying it was unsafe.

Ms Cannings, 40, a former shop assistant, always maintained that the two boys died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or cot death.

SIDS was recorded as the cause of death after Ms Cannings' first child, Gemma, died at the age of 13 weeks in 1989.

Ms Cannings has one surviving daughter, who was born in 1996.

They are extraordinarily difficult matters - still, nobody knows what causes cot death
Bill Bache

After the conviction was overturned Ms Cannings said outside the court: "These last four years have been a living hell, finally today justice has been done and my innocence has been proven.

"I would like to go home now and be mummy to our very precious daughter."

Her solicitor, Bill Bache, said she was "extremely relieved" but in an emotional state.

"She is very grateful to the Court of Appeal for putting right the injustice that occurred at Winchester Crown Court on April 16 2002 when she was wrongly convicted of the murder of two of her children," he said.

"It seems to her that this is a prosecution which should never have been brought.

Many (people) have championed Professor Meadow, calling him a man of great skill and compassion.

"They are extraordinarily difficult matters. Still, nobody knows what causes cot death, and until a good deal more information is known about that, it would seem to me that prosecutions of the kind that have been brought against her."

Ms Cannings' husband and stepson were in court, and applause was heard when the verdict was announced.

Her appeal has been the last of three major cases to receive high-profile attention because of the prosecution's reliance on evidence from two main scientific experts.

In January, solicitor Sally Clark, who had been jailed for murdering her two baby sons, was cleared by the Court of Appeal.

And in June, 35-year-old pharmacist Trupti Patel was cleared of murdering her three babies by a jury at Reading Crown Court

The government has now ordered a review of the procedures used for investigating mothers accused of murdering their own babies.

And the Crown Prosecution Service has said it will look at whether to review past cases involving certain medical experts, including Professor Sir Roy Meadow.

He was involved as a prosecution witness in all three of the recent cases.

Cot death

The solicitor of another mother jailed for murdering her two babies said he hoped Ms Cannings' acquittal would help his client's bid for freedom.

Donna Anthony, of Yeovil, Somerset, was 25 when she was given two life sentences in 1998 for murdering her daughter and son.

She always claimed they were victims of cot death but an appeal to quash the convictions was unsuccessful in June 2002.

Ms Anthony's solicitor George Hawks says Sir Roy was also an expert witness in the case against her.

She has been in jail in Durham for five-and-a-half years.

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"There were cheers and a standing ovation in court from her family and friends"

Babies 'had higher cot death risk'
09 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire
'Genetic' cause for cot deaths
08 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire
Mother cleared of killing babies
11 Jun 03  |  Berkshire

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