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Killer's husband blames experts

The husband of a depressed mother who smothered her three disabled children before attempting suicide has expressed his hope that no family will ever again have to endure the "unbearable pressure" that eventually overwhelmed his wife.

Tania Clarence, 43, was handed a hospital order at the Old Bailey after admitting the manslaughter by diminished responsibility of Olivia, four, and three-year-old twins Ben and Max at her home in New Malden, south west London, over the Easter holidays.

Afterwards, investment banker Gary Clarence said "lessons need to be learned" from his wife's story of "dedication and love" which turned to "despair and utter hopelessness".

In a statement issued on his behalf, solicitor Richard Egan blamed medical professionals and social services for contributing to Clarence's depression.

He said: "The loss of the children's lives at the hands of their mother who cherished them is a tragedy explained by her severe depressive illness. But it is also a tragedy from which lessons need to be learned.

"Tania's depression was certainly not assisted by the constant pressure placed on the family by some individuals within the medical profession and social services who could not agree with Tania and Gary Clarence's stance of prioritising quality of life for their children and who were not readily willing to submit the children to operations and other interventions that they felt were not appropriate in the circumstances.

"Gary Clarence will be making no personal comment until the conclusion of all internal investigations and reviews.

"In due course he will be assisting Kingston Borough Council in their review of the decisions taken in this case, and he hopes to be able to ensure that never again will a family have to endure the unbearable pressure that eventually overwhelmed the resources of his wife."

The court has heard the children, who suffered from muscle-weakening condition MSA type-2, were found dead - tucked into their beds with toys arranged around their heads posed as if on a "bier" lying in state.

Days before the killings, Clarence's husband took their eight-year-old daughter, who is not disabled, on a holiday to South Africa, leaving the defendant alone with her other children, having given the nanny a day off.

Sentencing her to a hospital order today , Mr Justice Sweeney said there was "clear and convincing" evidence that she was suffering a "major depressive episode".

He said: "The prosecution accept that you loved all four of your children. Indeed, there is a substantial body of evidence that they were happy and well looked after and you were grief-stricken that Olivia, Max and Ben were destined to die early and before you."

Quoting a psychiatrist, he said: "If you had not been suffering from mental illness at the time, you would not have killed your children."

He said that while the Old Bailey was "not the forum" to judge the conduct of the health professionals and social workers, the effect of their actions on Clarence's state of mind was an "important factor".

He said Clarence and her husband were "intelligent people" who did not always accept medical recommendations as they sought to prioritise "quality of life over longevity".

The judge dismissed an allegation that Clarence tampered with Olivia's hospital equipment on one occasion, saying she had "done nothing wrong at all".

The court heard that Clarence repeatedly clashed with doctors during a long history of the children's medical treatment in and out of hospital.

Some 60 medical professionals had been involved in the case, often turning up at the Clarence house in groups or unannounced.

On one occasion, Clarence said: "Gary and I do love our children, just not in the way you want us to."

In May 2011 a doctor noted that Clarence was "seriously over-stretched/under intolerable strain" from all the medical appointments.

At the end of 2012, she told medics she did not want to see her children's suffering prolonged and "if they were in South Africa, they would go to the top of a mountain and die".

She also admitted to medical staff that she was suffering from depression on more than one occasion, yet did not follow through with therapy.

Just before the killings, Clarence resisted agreeing to a gastrostomy for Olivia that doctors had urged because of fears that she was underweight.

The dispute also coincided with the appointment of an inexperienced social worker from Kingston Borough Council who replaced a woman who resigned in disgust after being moved off the case because she had got too close to the family, the court heard.

At a meeting on March 24, the new social worker presented Clarence with a list of subjects for discussion including gastrostomy, physiotherapy routines, spinal surgery, and her mental health - all of which she found "overwhelming".

In April, Mr Clarence urged "tact" as he finally agreed to a gastric button for Olivia, but at the same time, Kingston social services called a meeting to discuss the possibility of instituting child protection measures.

The social worker ignored his plea during a visit on April 16 by suggesting a gastric button for the twins. Days later, all three children were dead.

A Kingston Council spokesman confirmed a serious case review was under way.

Clarence will not be released from care in a secure hospital until she has recuperated from her illness.

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