London - Tania Clarence apparently tried to kill herself last week after allegedly suffocating her three disabled children in their London home – and this cost her her bid for freedom on Tuesday.
Judge Brian Barker denied her bail at London’s Old Bailey on Tuesday but ordered her to be remanded under the UK’s Mental Health Act because of the “exceptional circumstances” of the case.
He said there was an “overriding need for immediate treatment in a secure setting”.
This appeared to refer to Clarence’s suicide attempt.
Both sides said they were happy with this decision.
At the start of the proceedings, Clarence confirmed her name in the court by video link from a Surrey hospital where she is being held, and then broke down in tears as her lawyer spoke of her children’s genetic illness.
The Crown Prosecution Service barrister Zoe Johnson said the State believed that last Tuesday, Clarence suffocated 4-year-old Olivia and twins Ben and Max, aged 3, who were all suffering from the severely disabling genetic disease of spinal muscular atrophy.
Johnson said Clarence was later taken to hospital with a cut left wrist.
The family’s nanny and family friend found a note at the bottom of the stairs and then found Clarence in a bedroom upstairs.
She had been taken to St George’s Hospital, where a psychologist said she was fit to be interviewed by police.
On the video link, dressed in a black training top and black jeans, with her long black hair brushed back, she dabbed her eyes with a tissue, listening to the précis given by Johnson.
Her husband Gary smiled briefly at the TV screen as he entered the courtroom but his wife would have been unable to see him.
Up to 15 family members and friends sat in the elevated public gallery in Court 3 of the Old Bailey.
Johnson said the State believed the three children had been suffocated but that pathologists were still doing tests.
Clarence, a graphic designer, had given up her job to care for the children, with the help of a housekeeper and nanny.
The Clarences settled last year in New Malden in London, where they had their R21 million townhouse modified with ramps and a lift to make access easier.
Gary Clarence, who works at Investec Bank in London and specialises in health-care acquisitions and disposals, was in South Africa with the couple’s eldest child, Taya, 8, when told of the deaths.
Taya does not have spinal muscular atrophy.
Most people accused of murder are kept in custody, but the special circumstances in the case could have allowed Clarence to go free – but this was denied.
Under British law, it is up to the prosecution to prove that there is an “unacceptable risk” that if an accused person is granted bail he or she may fail to appear in court, commit an offence, endanger someone’s safety or welfare, or obstruct the course of justice.
Over the weekend, police remained at the family home, searching for evidence.
Officers dressed in white protective suits were seen removing bags from the house and loading them into police vans.
Independent Foreign Service