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Saturday 20 September 2014

Mother arrested over deaths of three severely disabled children

Aislinn Laing Johannesburg and Martin Evans

Published 24/04/2014 | 02:30

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Gary Clarence with his twin sons
Floral tributes left by members of the public outside the family home in New Malden, Surrey.

A MOTHER has been arrested on suspicion of murder after her three severely disabled children were found dead at their £2m (€2.4m) home.

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The 42-year-old, named locally as Tania Clarence, was detained after police were called to the seven-bedroom house in Surrey in Britain on Tuesday evening following concern from a relative.

There they discovered the bodies of four-year-old Olivia and three-year-old twins Ben and Max in two upstairs bedrooms.

Mrs Clarence, a graphic designer, was taken to hospital suffering from minor injuries and after treatment was discharged and arrested.

Her husband Gary, a banker, was on holiday with the couple's eldest daughter, aged seven, in the family's native South Africa, when the tragedy occurred.

He was flying back to Britain with his mother, and was described by friends as being "beyond shock".

The dead children were all understood to be suffering from the genetic condition spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), and were not expected to live beyond their childhood years.

The family moved into the area last year and had spent several months and around £1m (€1.2m) adapting their home to cater for their disabled children's needs.

The couple, whose eldest daughter is not thought to have any health problems, had been on holiday in South Africa in 2012 when they noticed problems with Olivia's development.

After a series of tests, doctors delivered the devastating news that she was suffering from a life-limiting genetic condition.

Specialists also warned the family that there was a 50pc chance that the one-year-old twin boys could also have the condition.

DIAGNOSIS

Further tests confirmed the diagnosis and the couple were forced to confront the devastating prospect that three of their children could be dead before school age.

Those diagnosed with SMA suffer from muscle wasting and often die as a result of breathing problems.

Neighbours described the Clarences as a "loving and close family" who did everything for their children.

One said: "I saw them all the time about with their children. They are very nice people and very, very decent. She is such a lovely person – her life revolves around the children."

Mr Clarence qualified as a solicitor before moving into finance and had worked at the bank Investec for 12 years where he was head of healthcare.

An Investec spokesman said: "Gary Clarence is a valued colleague and has worked with us for many years.

"We do not know the facts at this time but our thoughts are with the Clarence family.

"We are doing all that we can to help Gary and his eldest child and ask that their privacy is respected."

Joy Devis (86), who lived next door to the couple and visited their newly refurbished house several times, said: "They are a very nice couple and seemed very happy together.

"They were very loving parents. And the children were so lovely – three of them were severely handicapped but they were very happy."

Mrs Devis, who suffers from arthritis, said: "I went inside the house to see the lift they had put in. There were loads and loads of toys in the house, it had a lovely atmosphere. There was a huge garden at the back of the house and I used to see them playing in it a lot.

"They were good parents. I worked as a nurse and midwife with families and disabled children for years and there was nothing about them to worry anyone.

"They seemed very happy. It's a huge surprise and shock. I think the dad is in South Africa – he went back there regularly."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "A 42-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in custody. We are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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