Mother gets 5 years for killing girl

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The Independent Online
A mother who killed one of her daughters and poisoned another while suffering severe personality problems was jailed for five years yesterday by a judge who said he did so "with a heavy heart" because no other course was available to him.

Celia Beckett was convicted at Nottingham Crown Court last October of poisoning daughter Tracey, four. She was also found guilty of an earlier attempt to poison Tracey and administering anti-depressant tablets to another daughter, Debbie. She had admitted cruelty.

Mr Justice Garland, sitting at the High Court, yesterday sentenced Beckett to five years for manslaughter, five years for administering a noxious substance to Tracey, four years for administering a noxious substance to Debbie, and six months for wilful neglect, all to run concurrently.

The judge said that he was unable to make an order under the Mental health Act because Beckett was not diagnosed as mentally ill. "I don't see probation as a viable alternative simply because the offences are so serious. What I do with a heavy heart is to impose a period of imprisonment," he said.

Oliver Blunt, for the defence, said Beckett felt remorse. "She appears to be sentenced by your lordship as a useless, incompetent and negligent mother." Mr Blunt said several doctors had examined her, one finding she suffered from a psychiatric disorder and the others that she had severe personality problems.

At her trial, Beckett, 35, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, said she had pleaded with social workers for help but was refused. Nigel Rumfitt QC, for the prosecution, had accused social workers of serious errors of judgement for allowing Tracey back into the care of a mother who had fed her an overdose of anti-depressant tablets. Three weeks later Tracey died of another overdose.

The police have admitted mistakes in their investigation. The case came to light only after Tracey's body had been exhumed in 1994, eight years after her death. The remains of her sister Clare, who died aged seven after a mysterious brain injury, were also removed.

Later, Beckett's ex-husband criticised the five-year jail sentence for the woman who poisoned their two "little angel" daughters. Thomas Butler, 41, said: "She should have been locked up for life and the key thrown away."