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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Secret babies of a public mother
Ann Mahoney (South Wales Echo/PA)
The retired nurse won Citizen of the Year award in 2002
Ann Mahoney was considered a pillar of the community on Merthyr Tydfil's Gurnos estate.

A mother-of-two and a grandmother, she was known more than anything for her work with children, helping with three youth football teams and becoming a school governor of an infant school.

In 2002 the retired nurse was even voted citizen of the year by the local police crime prevention panel for helping improve quality of life in one of the most deprived parts of Wales.

But she lived with a terrible secret for more than 40 years.

While she had two children, no-one suspected she had also given birth to three stillborn babies, and then hidden their bodies.

The house in Penyfan View where the first baby's remains were found
The first baby's body was found at a house in Penyfan View

The truth was revealed only in March this year when the family who moved into her former home in Penyfan View were rummaging round in the attic and came across an abandoned suitcase where they found a child's remains.

Police linked the discovery to Mahoney and arrested her in May at her home in Forsythia Close, a few streets away. In a search of her loft, officers found two more bodies, wrapped in bags.

In August she pleaded guilty to three counts of endeavouring to conceal the birth of a child.

She was given a 12 month community rehabilitation order by a judge at Merthyr Crown Court on Monday.

Ann Mahoney was a pillar of the estate - The damage she done was to herself and to her children. I feel very sad about that
Councillor Dave Phillips

Her neighbours were stunned: here was a woman who despite her own obvious ill health, was continuing to work for the community. At the time, she was fighting for a scrambler track to be built.

Yet she had concealed the birth and death, of first one, then two and eventually three children.

Janette Cunningham, who had worked with her, said: "I can't believe what has happened because she didn't give you the impression of being that type of person.

"I was shocked. My husband worked with her as well, at Prince Charles Hospital, and it was a total shock when I heard about it all."

Ann Mahoney, pictured in 2002.
She was living a normal life but living a lie - she had a dark secret and told no-one
Ieuan Morris, prosecuting

The judge on Monday was told Mahoney had six previous pregnancies from the age of 18 - four of which were stillborn.

Prosecutor Ieuan Morris said that carbon dating showed the babies were born between 1959 and 1986. Mahoney said they were born between 1970 and 1982.

When arrested, Mahoney told police: "It wasn't murder. I didn't do it - I'll tell you about it. They weren't breathing".

Mahoney first gave birth when living with her parents at the age of 18 in 1959. She said the baby was stillborn and was taken away by her father for burial.

She said she then had a daughter in 1965 and another in 1970 fathered by a doctor who worked at a local hospital.

The court heard the doctor returned to India but was the father of the next stillborn baby.

The other two babies were described as being "the product of one-night stands" in 1980 and 1981.

Each time she decided to keep the baby's bodies rather than alert the authorities.

Mr Morris added: "She first kept the bodies in a junk room in Crabapple Close. But she took all three bodies when she moved house, two in suitcases and one in a bin-liner, which she put in the attic".

"She was living a normal life but living a lie. She had a dark secret and told no-one.

"She made contributions to the community to make good her wrong-doing."

Penyfan View sign
Police first searched a house in Penyfan View

But she moved house again and "simply forgot" one of the babies.

Local councillor and magistrate Dave Phillips said: "Ann Mahoney was a pillar of the estate.

"She took control of the deprived children on the estate and she was running three football teams. She started the diabetic clinic and (there were) other charities she was involved with.

"In my heart, I feel sorry for Ann Mahoney and for her family.

"It must have been a heavy burden for her to carry over those years. It must have been a tremendous burden for her to carry. She is not a well woman".

Once her secret was uncovered, Mahoney admitted her guilt when her case came to court in August. The prosecution accepted the babies were born dead.

But the fact that it was Ann Mahoney in the dock left many who knew her stunned.

Attic babies mother for sentence
03 Oct 05 |  South East Wales

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