Double-killer mother loses appeal
A mother who murdered her two young children and placed their bodies in holdalls in the boot of her car has lost her appeal against her sentence.
Former City worker Fiona Donnison, 45, of Lightwater, Surrey, was given two life sentences and ordered to serve at least 32 years behind bars last August after jurors convicted her of the murders of three-year-old Harry and two-year-old Elise.
She sat with her head bowed in the dock of the Court of Appeal in London and showed no emotion as three judges rejected argument that the minimum term was too long.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Openshaw and Mr Justice Irwin, said: "In our judgment, the judge's decision about the relevant minimum term in this dreadful case was within the appropriate range and there is no basis with which we should interfere with the assessment that a minimum term of 32 years should be served."
Donnison went into Heathfield police station in East Sussex on the morning of January 27 2010 and told officers she had killed her children. A search of the area located them in the boot of her Nissan car, which was parked in Mill Close, Heathfield, around the corner from Meadowside, the former family home.
Jurors at Lewes Crown Court found her unanimously guilty of murder after hearing she had smothered them with their bedding the night before.
The trial judge, Mr Justice Nicol, described the murders as "deliberate and wicked acts". He said: "Why you did this defies logical explanation. It seems it can only have something to do with your feelings for Paul Donnison, the children's father and your former partner."
The judge said the jury had rejected her defence that she was suffering from serious depression and was not in her right mind. Donnison, who was described as a narcissist with an overdeveloped sense of self-importance and entitlement, declined to give evidence during the trial.
The appeal judges had heard from Simon Russell Flint QC that the killings were in the context of a genuine suicide attempt by Donnison, who was suffering from some mental disorder, and there was a complete absence of premeditation. He said that she had been "at all times an excellent and dedicated mother", and there were particular stresses which tipped her over the edge so as to want to kill her children and then herself.
Lord Judge said that it was a "truly tragic case". On the basis of the evidence before him, and the jury's findings, the observation that the deaths were "the result of deliberate and wicked acts" was one he was entirely justified in making, he said.