Saturday 17 March 2018

Mother who murdered her two children in Spanish hotel sentenced to 30 years

Lianne Smith is led away from court by Spanish police officers
Lianne Smith is led away from court by Spanish police officers

A woman who admitted smothering her 11-month-old son and five-year-old daughter in a Spanish hotel room has been jailed for 30 years.

Lianne Smith claimed she murdered her son, Daniel, and daughter, Rebecca, with a plastic bag in her room at the Miramar Hotel in Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava, in 2010, because she feared they would be taken away after her partner, Martin Smith, was arrested on sex offence charges.

The family had been living in Spain since 2007 after fleeing Lichfield, Staffordshire, when Smith's eldest daughter by her first husband accused Martin Smith of sexually abusing her.

Martin Smith, originally from North Shields, had been a singer working in North-east clubs before working as a TV psychic. Lianne Smith was living in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, and going through a divorce from her first husband when she met him through a dating agency in October 1992.

Previously the couple lived together in a caravan in Northumberland, with Lianne's two children from her previous marriage. Later they moved to Cumbria, where Lianne worked as a manager at Cumbria County Council's children's services department.

The murders took place shortly after Martin Smith had been arrested in Barcelona by Spanish police acting on a European warrant.

Lianne Smith, 45, thought British social services had travelled to Spain to take her children away from her.

During the trial jurors heard how Smith had made several failed suicide attempts after the killings. These included cutting herself with razors, covering her head with a plastic bag, attempting to hang herself and trying to drown herself in the bath.

She left four notes and an envelope containing money for the hotel bills before the suicide attempts.

"I love you very much. I haven't been able to give you a marvellous life together. I am so sorry," read one of the notes, addressed to her two children.

The next day she walked into the hotel reception and asked police for an ambulance to be called.

She led an officer into her room and pointed to a bed where the dead children lay covered by sheets, and confessed to the murders.

Last month, jurors at a provincial court in north-east Spain decided that Smith was criminally responsible for her children's deaths, despite her defence lawyers' pleas that she had been in a state of "psychiatric disturbance" at the time. "This was the end of the road. I knew my children would be taken back to England," Smith told Spanish officers in a video interview that was showed to jurors.

She added: "I felt I was in a corner and my intention was for me and my children to go. It was not just the children, it was me as well."

In December 2010, her partner Martin Smith was found guilty at Manchester Crown Court of using hypnotism, bullying and violence to groom and sexually abuse Smith's eldest daughter, Sarah Richardson, who has waived her right to anonymity.

He was found hanged in his cell at Strangeways Prison in Manchester in January.

Despite prosecutors seeking a jail term of 34 years, Smith was sentenced to serve 30 years behind bars yesterday – a 15-year sentence for each of the murders. Judge Adolfo Garcia Morales said he was imposing the minimum sentence for murder because he considered that, although responsible for her actions, Smith was suffering a degree of "mental disturbance" when she committed the crimes.

"The jury stressed that this mental disturbance was not as important as the defence had argued," he said in a written sentence.

It read: "This was based on facts such as several suicide attempts made by Smith, a statement she gave during which she appeared normal and did not make any significant mistakes as she described what had happened and how it happened, the composition of several coherent notes, and the calculations that she made in order to pay what she believed she still owed to the hotel."

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