A tearful mother denies murder of two baby boys

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The Independent Online

A mother accused of murdering two of her babies fought back tears yesterday as she said she had no idea what she had done to deserve losing her children.

Angela Cannings said she was left "empty inside" by the deaths of two of her sons, Matthew and Jason, and a daughter Gemma. She had no idea why they died and each time she was left shocked and devastated, she told Winchester Crown Court.

Mrs Cannings, 38, has pleaded not guilty to the murders of seven-week-old Jason in 1991 and 18-week-old Matthew in 1999. Her first child, Gemma, died aged 13 weeks in 1989 but she faces no charges relating to her death.

The jury has been told Mrs Cannings smothered Jason and Matthew while they slept in their cots and had heard from medical experts who said both boys suffered an obstruction in their airways caused by deliberate smothering.

But yesterday Mrs Cannings told the junior defence counsel, Jo Briggs, who is deputising for Michael Mansfield QC, that she had never harmed any of her children.

Struggling not to cry, she said: "It's as I said when I had been arrested; I do not know why this has happened, I really didn't know what I had done in my life to deserve to lose my children. To lose Matthew was just so devastating I just felt totally lost, shocked, just the feeling of, 'Why?'

"When we lost Gemma and Jason and then Matthew, each time I felt empty inside and wondered why it happened."

Mrs Cannings told the court she had no idea what the police wanted when she was arrested soon after Matthew's death. She said that she had felt helpless after his death. "I personally did not know what to do, I was just not with it at all, I was numb, shocked."

Asked about her relationship with her husband Terry, Mrs Canning said they were still "together as we can be" and he supported her. The jury was shown a 20-minute family video and photographs as well as a 35-minute video showing the first seven weeks of Jason's life.

Ms Briggs said the final sequence in Jason's video showed him after what the defence say is an episode of ill health. Mrs Cannings told the court that after that episode and in the days before Jason died he had not been the same. "He was not the same, he was not as alert, he just didn't seem to be right, he was not himself," she said.

The prosecution has alleged that each of the boys suffered an "acute life-threatening event" nine days before they died, both of them were alone with their mother when they died and had been seen looking well shortly before their deaths. The court has also been told that when Mrs Cannings discovered Matthew was not breathing she called her husband before she telephoned for an ambulance.

Before Mrs Cannings was called into the witness box yesterday, Ms Briggs told the jury the defence would bring expert medical evidence to show that there could be genetic and environmental reasons why babies died from sudden infant death syndrome or cot death.

The trial continues today with Mrs Cannings to continue giving evidence.