Father accused of killing three infant children

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The Independent Online
A father killed his three babies by strangling and smothering them, a court was told yesterday.

Over a five-year period, Simon Smith's apparently healthy children - daughters Lauren, three months, and Eleisha, 10 months, and his six-month-old son Jamie - died suddenly, Stafford Crown Court was told. On each occasion he had spent time alone with them before finding them dead, it was alleged.

The deaths of Eleisha, in December 1989, and Jamie in April 1993, were put down to sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death. It was only after the examination in November 1994 into Lauren's death, which showed she died from asphyxia, that Mr Smith, 26, was arrested. He denies three charges of murder but in police interviews he admitted suffocating Lauren until she died, the court was told.

John Goldring QC, for the prosecution, described howEleisha had been taken to Stafford District General hospital the week before her death after she had apparently suddenly stopped breathing, but nothing amiss could be found.

The following week she again collapsed during the night at the house in Stafford, which Smith shared with the child's mother, Tracy Hall. Smith had been the last person to see her, changing her nappy to stop her crying. The following morning he found her dead in her bedroom.

A post mortem examination into Eleisha's death concluded it was a case of sudden infant death syndrome.

In September 1992, Ms Hall had a second child, Jamie, again by Mr Smith. Jamie was found dead in his bed the following April. Two days before a health visitor had found him in perfectly good health.

On the night of the death the couple's next door neighbour had been baby- sitting and put Jamie to bed in his own home shortly before 2am. Soon afterwards, Mr Smith returned home, drunk after a party. Again he was the last person to see the child alive. Minutes after coming home Mr Smith knocked hysterically on a neighbour's door with Jamie's dead body in his hands. "Why me? Why me? I tried everything I could," he shouted. Again a post mortem examination found a case of cot death.

In July 1994, the third child, Lauren, was born. Her mother was Rachel Playfair, Mr Smith's new girlfriend. When Lauren was just three months old Mr Smith spent a day in Stafford shopping with her. Minutes after he returned home he claims he found the child dead on a sofa. Again she had apparently stopped breathing.

But after first denying the killing he later admitted to police he had smothered the child in the back seat of his car to stop her crying. This time a post mortem examination found the cause of death was asphyxia, the court was told.

The trial resumes today.