BBC to film story of Angela Cannings

Miscarriage of justice » Mother who was wrongly jailed for killing children says: 'This is for my daughter ... she doesn't understand'
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The Independent Online

Angela Cannings, the mother wrongly jailed for killing two of her children, is co-operating with the BBC on a dramatised account of her ordeal that will possibly star the actress Sarah Lancashire. Mrs Cannings said she is working on the programme because she hopes it will help her eight-year-old daughter understand what she went through.

Angela Cannings, the mother wrongly jailed for killing two of her children, is co-operating with the BBC on a dramatised account of her ordeal that will possibly star the actress Sarah Lancashire. Mrs Cannings said she is working on the programme because she hopes it will help her eight-year-old daughter understand what she went through.

Mrs Cannings's conviction for murder was overturned by the Court of Appeal in December last year. The case - along with those of Trupti Patel and Sally Clark - prompted a loss of confidence in the use of expert medical evidence in child abuse cases. Mrs Cannings spent 18 months in prison, but was separated from her husband Terry and daughter Jade for more than two years before the trial in 2002. The family are still learning to live together once again.

The 90-minute film, Cherished, will be shot in the autumn. The casting is yet to be finalised, but programme-makers are intent on a high-profile treatment and a big- name actress in the lead role, possibly Ms Lancashire.

Mrs Cannings will receive only a small fee for her work on Cherished, even though she could have struck a lucrative deal with other film-makers.

"Hopefully it will tell the story of what we went through as a family. People will actually see what we had to go through," she said. "We're still suffering the aftermath of this whole episode. It was such a traumatic time.

"This is for Jade's benefit, so when she is older she can see what it was all about. Jade is learning to live with mummy and daddy again. At the moment she doesn't quite understand why mummy had to go away. Hopefully this will answer her questions.

"The general public would assume that we've got back together and that's it. But there is an awful lot of healing. It doesn't just heal overnight. Even now I sit and think why we had to go though all that. We've had quite a lot to do with the scriptwriters. Before the finished product we will see it and decide if we are happy with it. The BBC has been very good. They've dealt with us very fairly."

Mrs Cannings always maintained that two deaths she was jailed for were cot deaths, like that of her first child. Her trial heard evidence from the now discredited paediatric expert Professor Sir Roy Meadow, author of the notorious "Meadow's law" which holds that "one sudden infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, unless proven otherwise".

In its ruling on Mrs Cannings's case, the Court of Appeal said it would be "unsafe" to proceed in future with such trials where evidence came almost exclusively from experts. Her acquittal was assisted by evidence uncovered by the BBC current affairs programme Real Story. Cherished will be a joint production by the BBC's drama and current affairs wings.

Mrs Cannings, 40, from Salisbury in Wiltshire, was sentenced to life imprisonment in April 2002 for the murder of her two sons - seven-week-old Jason in 1991 and 18-week-old Matthew in 1999. Her first child died at the age of 13 weeks in 1989 from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, better known as cot death.

Sue Hogg, the executive producer of Cherished, said: "She was effectively living a prison sentence even before she was convicted because she had to move out of the family home and had only limited access to Jade. She was allowed five visits a week for two hours at a time and only in the presence of a social worker.

"But the film doesn't demonise the social services or the police. It is just people in society doing a very tough job, but a tough job which, when there is a miscarriage of justice, can have terrible consequences."

Much of the evidence was based on expert opinion, but later evidence produced at the appeal showed Mrs Cannings's family had a history of cot deaths and her half-sister also suffered miscarriages.

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