Mother is charged in disabled children murders
A mother has appeared in court charged with murdering her three severely disabled children.
Tania Clarence (42) made a brief and tearful appearance at Wimbledon magistrates court where she was remanded in custody yesterday.
Dressed in a grey smock, she stood in the dock flanked by a male and female security guard, while her husband Gary – surrounded by family – sat a few feet away in the public gallery.
Supported by his mother Anne, brother Kevin and sister Derri, he hugged friends who had also attended court.
It is thought to have been the first time Mr and Mrs Clarence have seen each other since their three children – Olivia, Max and Ben – died.
Mr Clarence, who had been in his native South Africa on holiday with his eldest eight-year-old daughter at the time of the alleged murders, looked at his wife as the charges were read out.
Her voice breaking with emotion she spoke tearfully to confirm her name, address and date of birth.
Mr Clarence, who was wearing a dark suit and white shirt, looked close to tears as he listened to proceedings, hunched slightly forwards in his chair.
His wife did not look across the court to him during the two-minute hearing.
Fiona Abbott, chairman of the Magistrates' Bench, read the charges to Mrs Clarence, that between April 20 and April 23 she murdered Olivia Clarence, Ben Clarence and Max Clarence at an address in Thetford Road, New Malden, Surrey.
The case was sent to the Old Bailey for a preliminary hearing on May 9.
A bail hearing is due to take place on April 29, until when Mrs Clarence will be remanded in custody.
Mrs Clarence was arrested on Tuesday night after police were called to her home where they discovered the bodies of her three youngest children.
All three children had been suffering from a genetic condition known as spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), and had not been expected to live beyond the age of five.
Post-mortems were carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital on three-year-old twins Ben and Max, and four-year-old Olivia.
Mr Clarence, who works as a director at City bank Investec, flew back to London after being told about their deaths.
A source said that Mr Clarence was struggling to comprehend what had happened. He said: "Gary is still really battling with it, he is in a real state."
A family statement called for privacy amid the "devastating circumstances".
The couple had to confront the prospect that three of their children were unlikely to live beyond their fifth birthday. SMA causes muscle wasting and leads to breathing difficulties.
The family moved to New Malden last year and had spent around £1m (€1.2m) adapting their home to cater for their disabled children. (© Daily Telegraph, London)