Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 16:55 UK

Mother murdered disabled daughter

Joanne Hill

A 32-year-old woman has been found guilty of murdering her four-year-old disabled daughter.

Joanne Hill, from Connah's Quay, in Flintshire, had admitted drowning Naomi in the bath last year but denied murder due to diminished responsibility.

Hill was jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years. Chester Crown Court was told she had been unable to cope with Naomi's mild cerebral palsy.

Naomi's father Simon Hill described his wife's actions as "evil".

During the two-week trial, the jury heard hard-drinking Hill was ashamed of Naomi's condition, which meant the little girl had to use callipers to help her walk.

Judge Elgan Edwards told Hill there was no excuse for what she did.

Simon Hill pays tribute to his murdered daughter

He said the aggravating features in the case were the vulnerability of Naomi and the breach of trust between a mother and daughter.

He said: "You killed your own daughter because you could not cope with her disability.

"You had other pressures upon you, a disintegrating marriage and you decided to kill your own daughter by drowning her."

Because of the murder conviction Hill will not return to a secure unit but go straight to prison, the judge said.

He commented on Hill's "sad" history of mental health problems and said he hoped she would be transferred back to hospital very soon.

He added: "This has been a very sad case. Sad for you, for your husband, for the child you killed.

"There can be no excuse for what you did."

On 26 November, 2007, Hill collected Naomi from a childminder and took her home.

The court heard how Hill had run a bath, adding bubble bath and came down for a glass of wine.

When the bath was full, Hill put her daughter in the bath and drowned her by holding her head under the water for up to 10 minutes.

She was my constant companion, she was my best friend, she was my little princess
Simon Hill, Naomi's father

The post-mortem examination found Naomi had died by drowning and also found facial haemorrhages which pointed to the girl's head being forcibly held under water with her face against the surface of the bath.

Hill then dressed the little girl and put her in her car together with a bottle of wine before her husband returned home from work.

She then drove around for eight hours.

The following day, Hill arrived at the Countess of Chester Hospital with her dead daughter in her arms, shouting for help.

The court heard how it was unclear what Hill was doing in the eight hours leading up to her arrival at hospital with Naomi dead in her arms.

Police established she visited a petrol station at about 2330 BST that night and the jury were shown CCTV footage of her smiling and joking with the sales assistant.

Naomi Hill
Naomi Hill suffered from mild cerebral palsy

Speaking after Hill was convicted by a unanimous jury, her husband Simon said: "Joanne is a non-swimmer with a fear of water. To be held under water is her biggest fear.

"What she did to my princess Naomi was evil.

"There's not a minute that goes by without me wishing that [Naomi] was still here. She was my constant companion, she was my best friend, she was my little princess."

Hill's mental health issues first became apparent in the early 1990s when, aged 17, she saw a child psychiatrist for anxiety and repetitive thoughts.

In 2000, she attempted suicide and throughout the year she was prescribed a medication for anxiety, depression and sleeplessness.

'Saddened and appalled'

In January 2003, shortly before Naomi was born, Hill was diagnosed with chronic anxiety and immediately afterwards, suffered a severe form of post-natal depression.

In a statement North Wales NHS Trust said a full review was to be conducted under the control of the Flintshire Local Safeguarding Children's Board.

"Until these formal processes have concluded it would be inappropriate for the trust to make any detailed comment and the trust is also bound by the rules of patient confidentiality," the statement read.

A spokeswoman for the disability charity Scope, which focuses on people with cerebral palsy, said they were "saddened and appalled by this case".

"Naomi's death is a tragedy," Alice Maynard said.

"However, this case raises the wider issue of how many disabled parents still don't get the support they need in bringing up children and how society continues to portray disability in a negative light, creating shame and stigma around impairment.

"Tragically, in this instance, this combination of factors proved lethal."


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