A single mother who drowned her 11-year-old son in the bath then attempted to kill herself after becoming severely depressed by her mounting debts was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act today.
The body of James Taylor was discovered by police officers called to the home he shared with his mother, Jennifer Taylor, in Knights Croft, New Ash Green, near Dartford, Kent, on December 2 last year.
Taylor, 45, denied murdering her son at a hearing in March, but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Sentencing her at Maidstone Crown Court today Judge Andrew Patience QC described the case as an "appalling human tragedy" in which "the life of a happy, bright, talented boy was wasted".
The judge added: "There is no question but that she adored her son and had tried to do her best for him but had got deeply into debt in her efforts to do so.
"The financial pressures upon her became intense and she developed an intense depressive illness in the months leading up to the killing."
He said the illness "led her to the belief that there was no solution to their problems other than to take James's life and kill herself".
The court heard Taylor called the emergency services at 5.30am on December 2 and told them she had stabbed herself and drowned her son in the bath two days earlier.
Police and paramedics arrived to find James lying in a foetal position in the bath with his head submerged in the water. They discovered Miss Taylor lying in a conservatory in bloodstained clothes.
She had multiple stab wounds to her thighs, breasts, wrists and arms and was white, cold and weak, the court heard.
All the wounds were self-inflicted, but bite marks on one of her fingers were believed to have come from her son and were the only sign of a possible struggle.
Taylor was arrested on suspicion of James's murder, and was said to have told paramedics she had wanted the two of them to die so they could "be in a better place".
She told them she had taken an overdose but had vomited. She said she recalled getting into the bath with her son but could not remember whether she had held him underwater.
The court heard she had become "increasingly socially isolated" in the months leading up to James's death. Both her parents were dead and she had little support.
James had never met his father, Mohammed Al-Rafaey, described as a "successful" Syrian national who lived in Abu Dhabi.
He sent her £1,000 a month in child maintenance and paid for James's private school fees but the court heard that by the time of his death she had accrued debts of nearly £290,000 and had only £360 available in her current account.
She had been forced to twice re-mortgage the house Al-Rafaey had bought for her, had six credit cards and said her phone was constantly ringing with creditors chasing her debts.
The court heard that in May 2008 she begged Mr Al-Rafaey, with whom she had a brief relationship in the 1990s, for more money and he agreed to transfer 25,000 US dollars into her account on condition she never asked for any more.
They both signed an agreement stipulating this but soon afterwards she did ask for more cash and also for him to pay her a lump sum to cover James's school fees for the next seven years, which he refused.
Taylor, who did not have a job, confided her money woes to her sister and close friends, who became worried about her mental state and insisted she visited her GP who prescribed her anti-depressants and sleeping pills.
When computer experts looked at her internet activity in the months leading up to James's death they found searches referring to "suicide through debt," "taking a child through suicide" and "drowning as my heart keeps pounding".
The court heard she asked those close to her if they would look after James if she died but was never given assurances they would.
Referring to evidence heard from consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Catherine Kinane, who has been treating Taylor at the mental health unit where she has been staying for the past nine months, the judge said he felt there was a risk of Taylor re-offending as she had "exhibited resentment to people she feels could have done more".
He also said that, since she has been at the Trevor Gibbens mental health unit at Maidstone Hospital, she has been reluctant to engage with the full remit of psychological treatment available to her and had shown no "real acceptance of responsibility for the offence".
In mitigation, Sarah Forshaw QC said there was "not one scintilla" of evidence that Taylor would re-offend as the events leading up to James's death were unique and she had only ever posed a risk to her son.
The court heard that Taylor, a devout Christian, was of previous "impeccable" character with no previous offences or history of alcohol or drug abuse.
Judge Patience said he felt she did pose a risk to the public nevertheless.
Telling her he would make her the subject of a hospital order under Section 37 of the Mental Health Act, he added that he would also give her a restriction order under Section 41 of the same Act without any limit on time.
Taylor, who did not listen to much of the evidence due to fears that it might cause her too much distress, looked calm and thanked the judge as the sentence was passed.Reuse content