Debt-ridden mother who drowned son in bath is detained

Woman killed son, 11, and tried to kill herself after amassing £290,000 debts
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The Independent Online

A mother who drowned her 11-year-old son in the bath then attempted to kill herself after becoming severely depressed by her £290,000 debts was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act yesterday.

The body of James Taylor was discovered by police officers called to the home he shared with his mother, Jennifer Taylor, in New Ash Green, near Dartford, Kent, on 2 December 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 yesterday, Judge Andrew Patience, 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 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 2 December 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 Taylor lying in a conservatory in bloodstained clothes. She had multiple stab wounds to her thighs, breasts, wrists and arms and was 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 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.

The court heard she had become "increasingly socially isolated" in the months leading up to James's death.

James had never met his father, Mohammed Al-Rafaey, described as a successful Syrian national who lived in Abu Dhabi, who sent Taylor £1,000 a month in child maintenance and paid for James's private school fees.

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, had twice remortgaged her house and had six credit cards and said her phone was constantly ringing with creditors chasing her debts. 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.

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 psychiatrist Catherine Kinane, who has been treating Taylor, 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".