A 42-year-old South African mother accused of murdering her three children in London has been hospitalized so that she can receive “immediate treatment.” After Judge Brian Barker ruled this week that this was “an exceptional case,” Tania Clarence was not granted bail, but was released from jail where she had been remanded in custody, and taken to a hospital where her condition could be reviewed over a period of 28 days.
Essentially this was the same ruling given to British honeymoon murder-accused, Shrien Dewani when he arrived in South Africa several weeks ago to face charges of master-minding the killing of his new wife, Annie in 2011. Dewani is currently being assessed in Cape Town’s Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for a month prior to his next court appearance on May 12.
Clarence, who has now been admitted to a secure hospital in London, was arrested on Tuesday evening after three of her children were found dead in the family’s upmarket home in New Malden. Two sons, Ben and Marx, who were three years old, and a daughter, Olivia, who was four years old, are thought to have been suffocated. All three of them suffered from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, (also known as “floppy baby syndrome”) a debilitating genetic disease that dramatically affects the development of muscles. Reports say that the three children could “barely sit up,” and that the family had spent the past 12 months renovating their London home to make it wheelchair friendly. It is understood that all three had to be tube-fed, medicated hourly, and that none of them could walk. It is also unlikely, according to reports that they would have lived beyond five years. Autopsy reports are still forthcoming.
Two days after the murder was discovered, Clarence was taken to St. George’s Hospital in the south of London where she was treated for cuts. Reports state that she had tried to slit her wrists and also take tablets in a suicide bid.
At the time of the murder Gary Clarence, father of the three children and husband of the accused, was in South Africa with the couple’s oldest daughter, Taya who is eight years old and does not suffer from the disorder. A successful banker, he is understood to have been with Taya at the family’s holiday home in Limpopo province when he was told what had happened. He immediately flew back to London and was at his wife’s bail hearing on Tuesday.
During the hearing three notes said to have been written by the South African mother, Tania Clarence were submitted to the court. One that was reportedly found attached to a banister in the family home instructed Gary Clarence not to allow Taya into bedrooms. Another begged Mr. Clarence not to save her because she could not “live with the horror of what” she had done. “I thought the pills would work but they didn’t.” There was a third note that was apparently addressed to the children’s nanny – as yet unnamed – but the contents were not read out in court.
After the Old Bailey court hearing Gary Clarence was allowed to spend a very short time with his accused wife in a jail cell. According to friends he was in a state of shock. A twist was that Mrs. Clarence had not actually appeared in the courtroom, instead she was shown to the court in a video link from a prison room where she was being held in custody. She was dressed in jeans and a black top, and appeared to be crying since she kept dabbing her eyes with a tissue during the court appearance.
Mrs. Clarence, the South African mother who is accused of murdering her three children is due to appear again at the Old Bailey court on July 15 where a “plea and case management hearing” will be held. In the meantime she will remain hospitalized rather than having to stay in jail.
By Penny Swift