Mentally ill woman who tried to kill daughter (4) spared jail
A Lithuanian woman who tried to strangle her daughter over fears her children would be "taken into care and abused" has been spared a prison sentence.
Judge Piers Grant told the woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her daughter, that it was "not appropriate to impose a prison sentence" given her mental health difficulties at the time and sentenced her to three years on probation.
The 38-year-old mother, who lived in Newtownards, Co Down, pleaded guilty at Downpatrick Crown Court to the attempted murder of her then four-year-old daughter and assaulting her husband occasioning him actual bodily harm.
Charles MacCreanor QC, prosecuting, told the court that in October 2015 renovation work had been going on at her family home for three weeks. During this time, he said, "two of the children, the mother and father were sleeping on mattresses in one bedroom in the upstairs of the property, and youngest child, aged two, was sleeping in a cot in the room. It was a pretty chaotic scene".
He added: "It is clear that in the days before this offence the building work was having an impact on the mother. She was concerned for their children and there was also the build-up of dust."
On October 12, 2015, her husband woke up to hear one of the children crying. The defendant was standing by the bed and she was saying to her husband: "They have to die."
"She said that the children would be taken away from them by social services and that if they were taken away they 'would be abused'," the prosecutor told the court.
"She then said to her husband: 'We have to kill them'."
The husband tried to prevent his wife grabbing the child and called the police.
However, she knocked him unconscious with a television.
"When he came to, he saw his wife's hands around the neck of their four-year-old daughter and she was strangling her. He got up, grabbed her and took the arms away from the child's neck," the prosecutor said.
The woman spent several months in hospital, after what a psychiatrist described as her "serious breakdown". She also attempted to take her own life after being remanded in custody.
Judge Grant said the case was one of "particular tragic circumstances" for the accused and her family.
He said it was a case where the court could "apply mercy", adding: "It is clear for those reasons not to impose a custodial sentence on each of the two counts."