Mercy for SA child-killer mom

He or­dered her to stay in hos­pi­tal un­til fully re­cov­ered from de­pres­sion

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - SAPA

THE HUS­BAND of Ta­nia Clarence, a South African woman who killed her three dis­abled chil­dren in London, has sup­ported her through­out the trial in the UK, the Bri­tish Press As­so­ci­a­tion re­ported yes­ter­day.

Clarence’s in­vest­ment banker hus­band Gary sup­ported his wife through­out what his lawyer de­scribed as one of the sad­dest cases to come be­fore the crim­i­nal courts.

In a state­ment on be­half of the fam­ily, solic­i­tor Richard Egan said: “The Clarence fam­ily, and in par­tic­u­lar Ta­nia Clarence, ded­i­cated their lives to the care and wel­fare of their three se­verely dis­abled chil­dren.

“Her love, com­mit­ment and tenac­ity in the face of the over­whelm­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties such care en­tailed was ex­tra­or­di­nary.

“Ul­ti­mately, her story of ded­i­ca­tion and love be­came a story of despair and ut­ter hope­less­ness.” He said lessons needed to be learnt from the tragedy. “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.”

He said Gary was as­sist­ing Kingston Bor­ough Coun­cil in its re­view of the cir­cum­stances of the case, but wanted to make it clear that al­le­ga­tions of ne­glect had been “wholly un­founded”.

All three of the chil­dren suf­fered from the mus­cle-weak­en­ing con­di­tion SMA type 2, and if the Clarences had known be­fore the twins were born, they would have agreed to abort the preg­nancy.

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

Clarence’s at­ti­tude was that their qual­ity of life was more im­por­tant than its length and she pre­ferred to opt for pal­lia­tive care over more in­va­sive treat­ment.

On one oc­ca­sion, she 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 and un­der in­tol­er­a­ble strain” from all the med­i­cal ap­point­ments.

At the end of 2012, she told medics that 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 on more than one oc­ca­sion that she was suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion, yet did not follow through with ther­apy.

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

The dis­pute co­in­cided with the ap­point­ment of an in­ex­pe­ri­enced so­cial worker from Kingston Bor­ough Coun­cil who re­placed a woman who had re­signed in dis­gust after be­ing moved from 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, Gary 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, and dur­ing a visit on April 16, sug­gested to Clarence a gas­tric but­ton for the twins next. Days later, all three chil­dren were dead.

Clarence, 43, pleaded guilty to man­slaugh­ter by di­min­ished re­spon­si­bil­ity of Olivia, 4, and 3-year-old twins Ben and Max at the fam­ily’s home in New Malden, south-west London, over Easter.

Sen­tenc­ing her to a hos­pi­tal or­der yes­ter­day, Jus­tice Sweeney said there was “clear and con­vinc­ing” ev­i­dence that she was suf­fer­ing a “ma­jor de­pres­sive episode”.

He told Clarence she would not be re­leased from hos­pi­tal cus­tody un­til she had re­cu­per­ated from her ill­ness.

PIC­TURE: AP

SUP­PORTED HIS WIFE: Gary Clarence ar­rives at the Old Bai­ley for the sen­tenc­ing of his wife Ta­nia.

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