Double-killer mother loses appeal

 

A mother who murdered her two young children and placed their bodies in holdalls in the boot of her car has lost her appeal against sentence.

Former City worker Fiona Donnison, 45, of Lightwater, Surrey, was given two life sentences and ordered to serve at least 32 years behind bars last August after jurors convicted her of the murders of three-year-old Harry and two-year-old Elise.

She sat with her head bowed in the dock of the Court of Appeal in London today and showed no emotion as three judges rejected argument that the minimum term was too long.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Openshaw and Mr Justice Irwin, said: "In our judgment, the judge's decision about the relevant mimimum term in this dreadful case was within the appropriate range and there is no basis with which we should interfere with the assessment that a minimum term of 32 years should be served."

Donnison went into Heathfield police station in East Sussex on the morning of January 27 2010 and told officers she had killed her children.

A search of the area located them in the boot of her Nissan car, which was parked in Mill Close, Heathfield, around the corner from Meadowside, the former family home.

Jurors at Lewes Crown Court found her unanimously guilty of murder after hearing she had smothered them with their bedding the night before.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Nicol, described the murders as "deliberate and wicked acts".

He said: "Why you did this defies logical explanation. It seems it can only have something to do with your feelings for Paul Donnison, the children's father and your former partner."

The judge said the jury had rejected her defence that she was suffering from serious depression and was not in her right mind.

Donnison, who was described as a narcissist with an overdeveloped sense of self-importance and entitlement, declined to give evidence during the trial.

The appeal judges had heard from Simon Russell Flint QC that the killings were in the context of a genuine suicide attempt by Donnison, who was suffering from some mental disorder, and there was a complete absence of premeditation.

He said that she had been "at all times an excellent and dedicated mother", and there were particular stresses which tipped her over the edge so as to want to kill her children and then herself.

Lord Judge said that it was a "truly tragic case".

"The issue at trial was diminished responsibility and, on the face of it, for a mother to kill her own children is clearly contrary to everything encompassed in that wonderful descriptive phrase 'mother's love'."

He said that, in sentencing, the trial judge had rightly addressed the mitigating features but, on the other hand, the murders involved two small children who were defenceless.

"They were in the appellant's care and to asphyxiate them represented a grotesque breach of trust defying, as the judge put it, any logical explanation."

On the basis of the evidence before him, and the jury's findings, the observation that the deaths were "the result of deliberate and wicked acts" was one he was entirely justified in making, said Lord Judge.

"Like the judge, we have stood back and tried to balance all these different considerations which a case involving a mother killing her two small children requires and justifies.

"But, having done that, we have come to the conclusion that the judge did not merely properly attend to the issues which might have provided mitigation but, setting them against the serious aggravating feature we have identified, that the balance he achieved fell within the appropriate range for a sentence of this kind."

The appeal judges had heard from Simon Russell Flint QC that the killings were in the context of a genuine suicide attempt by Donnison, who was suffering from some mental disorder, and there was a complete absence of premeditation.

He said that she had been "at all times an excellent and dedicated mother", and there were particular stresses which tipped her over the edge so as to want to kill her children and then herself.

Lord Judge said that it was a "truly tragic case".

"The issue at trial was diminished responsibility and, on the face of it, for a mother to kill her own children is clearly contrary to everything encompassed in that wonderful descriptive phrase 'mother's love'."

He said that, in sentencing, the trial judge had rightly addressed the mitigating features but, on the other hand, the murders involved two small children who were defenceless.

"They were in the appellant's care and to asphyxiate them represented a grotesque breach of trust defying, as the judge put it, any logical explanation."

On the basis of the evidence before him, and the jury's findings, the observation that the deaths were "the result of deliberate and wicked acts" was one he was entirely justified in making, said Lord Judge.

"Like the judge, we have stood back and tried to balance all these different considerations which a case involving a mother killing her two small children requires and justifies.

"But, having done that, we have come to the conclusion that the judge did not merely properly attend to the issues which might have provided mitigation but, setting them against the serious aggravating feature we have identified, that the balance he achieved fell within the appropriate range for a sentence of this kind."

PA

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star