SA mother pleades “not guilty”

SA mother pleades “not guilty” in New Malden child murders

The heartbreaking case of the New Malden child murders begins to move to court, as the plea of the accused mother might actually lead to rapid proceedings

SA mother pleades “not guilty”


South African-born Tania Clarence has pleaded not guilty to the murder of her three children, but did accept a guilty plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter, citing diminished responsibility under the Mental Health Act as her defence.

A projected trial date was also set in court for February 2015, with another pre-trial hearing, scheduled for 3rd October 2014, likely to determine whether the prosecution will actually decide to pursue a trial in the end. Having undergone psychiatric care since the murders, Ms Clarence may be ruled unfit to stand trial, or the case may not be deferred to the court for trial but may rather be handed down with a court judgment directly if prosecution and defence can agree.

42-year-old Clarence had killed her disabled children Olivia, 4, Ben, 3, and Max, 3, in April 2014 by suffocation. It was reported that she had been enduring stress for a prolonged period under the pressures of being the sole caretaker of the three disabled children, who had all been suffering from a congenital disease, type II Spinal Muscular Atrophy, also known as “floppy baby syndrome”.

Even with professional help, Clarence had apparently not been able to cope with the situation, with her clinical assessment indicating that she was depressed as well as undergoing high levels of sleep deprivation on account of the hourly around-the-clock care that the children’s condition had required.

Her husband, Gary Clarence, was visiting South Africa at the time with the couple eldest daughter, Taya, who does not carry the genetic marker for the disease. Mr Clarence has been attending all court hearings since his return.

By Sertan Sanderson, 2014