Mother smothered girl, 3, after father's threats

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A mother "gently" smothered her three-year-old daughter to death after the child's violent and abusive father threatened to take her away, an Old Bailey judge was told yesterday. Rose Auma, 20, ran away from her alcoholic mother at the age of 14 and was repeatedly raped by the father of her child. The court heard she found shelter with a family but was used and abused by them.

"She was treated as a servant and a source of sexual gratification," said Helena Kennedy QC, for the defence. At 16 she gave birth to Harriette having suffered constant sexual abuse by a friend of the family, who was described as a "violent and aggressive man".

On 6 June, the day before she took her daughter's life, the father came to her new address in Canning Town, east London, stole all her money, many of her treasured belongings and warned her he intended to come back and take the child. "She lived in fear of his visits," said Miss Kennedy.

The court heard that Auma was already suffering from a severe depressive illness and the thought of losing her daughter pushed her over the edge. She decided to kill herself, but was worried that her child would be left alone so she decided to kill Harriette as well. Auma said afterwards: "I did it gently. I put a pillow over her face. I wanted us both to go on the same day."

After killing Harriette while she slept, Auma took an overdose but woke up and was sick. Two days later she was found sitting on a park bench in the pouring rain stuffing pills into her mouth. She then blurted out what she had done and was taken to hospital. Miss Kennedy said: "She has led a terrible life. She lived in terror of the father. She killed the one true person she loved because she felt the father would come back and take her child away."

Judge Graham Boal QC ordered that she be detained in a secure hospital for treatment under Section 37 of the Mental Health Act. Auma pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Her plea of not guilty to murder was accepted by the judge, who described the case as "a very sad story" and "a tragedy".