On Monday, a British court dropped the murder charges against Tania Clarence, who killed her three severely disabled children, accepting her manslaughter plea instead. Clarence was able to enter a plea of manslaughter based on “diminished capacity.”
Clarence admitted to smothering her children, 4-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old twins Ben and Max. All three children suffered from a rare disease called type 2 spinal muscular atrophy, a condition which affects muscle strength and is often referred to as SMA. Her fourth child, 8-year-old Taya Grace, was in South Africa with her father, investment banker Gary Clarence, visiting family. Taya Grace does not have SMA.
SMA is a genetic disorder affecting the nerve systems that control muscle function, which eventually causes the muscles to waste away over time, leading to even more problems, such as abnormal curvatures of the spine. It also causes difficulties with tasks such as walking, eating, drinking, and even breathing. It is a rare disorder, but within the rare disorder, the most common form is the most severe, which usually proves to be fatal within the first year of a child’s life. Children with a milder form of SMA, however, can live into adulthood, and those with the most mild form of SMA have no change in life expectancy.
Tania Clarence ended the lives of her children back in April, in their London home where she and her husband had just spent over a million dollars fixing the house to be wheelchair accessible. She then tried to take her own life, as well.
She left a note for her husband saying, “Gary, I don’t want to be saved please. I can’t live with the horror of what I have done. I thought the pills would work, they didn’t.”
Clarence confessed to her crime to a female police officer on the scene, saying, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” When asked why she was sorry, Clarence said, “I killed them. I suffocated them.”
Clarence was taken to the hospital because of the pills she had ingested, and once there, was told she would be taken to the police station. At this point, she cried out, “Why do I have to do this, I’m guilty!”
Prosecutor Zoe Johnson said Tania Clarence believed that the quality of her children’s lives was more important than the longevity, which was “entirely understandable,” she said. And BBC correspondent Matt Prodger, who was in court during Clarence’s proceedings, said Mrs. Clarence could “see no hope for the future” and could no longer cope with caring for her children. It is because of Clarence’s considered “diminished capacity” and depression that led the court to accept her plea of manslaughter rather than prosecuting her for murder.
Prosecutor Johnson said, “It is clear on the evidence Mrs Clarence killed her three children because she wanted to end their suffering and at the time she committed the act she could not see any alternative or any other way out of their joint suffering.”
Under Britain’s mental health laws, Tania Clarence, who was not in court, will likely face a sentence of a hospital order for the three charges of manslaughter on November 14, meaning she will serve her time in a psychiatric facility.
[Images via ITV.com and The UK Times]