Mother child killings 'a tragedy'

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The Independent Online

The father of three children stabbed to death by their mother described the loss as an "overwhelming tragedy" as his estranged wife today admitted the killings.

Pasquale Riggi said children Austin, Luke and Cecilia would live on in the minds and hearts of him and his family forever.

Eight-year-old twins Austin and Luke and five-year-old Cecilia were killed at their Edinburgh home in August last year.

Appearing at the High Court in Edinburgh today, Theresa Riggi, 47, admitted killing them, entering a plea of culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility. She had originally been charged with murder.

Riggi, who was diagnosed by doctors as suffering from three different personality disorders, and her husband had been involved in legal action over the children at the time.

Alex Prentice QC, prosecuting, told the court they had been due to appear at a hearing the day before the children's deaths.

On the evening of August 2, at around 11.30pm, Riggi spoke to her husband on the phone.

Mr Prentice said she accused him of being in collusion with their solicitors and asked if he would take the children away.

On being told she "left him no choice", Riggi replied "say goodbye then" and hung up.

Mr Prentice said building manager Derek Knight discovered the bodies of the three children two days later, following a gas explosion at a block of townhouses in Slateford Road, where Riggi was staying in a property rented by a friend.

Mr Knight had been nearby when he heard a loud explosion at about 3pm on August 4, and witnessed smoke coming from the second-floor balcony doors.

Mr Knight saw Riggi on the second-floor balcony "screaming loudly". He noticed she had two cuts on her neck and watched as she climbed onto the railings.

The court was told that, while a neighbour urged Riggi not to jump, Mr Knight made his way upstairs to the property where, after forcing entry, he found the bodies of the three children.

Mr Prentice went on to describe how Mr Knight stepped over the bodies, opened the curtains, and saw Riggi lying on the ground.

The neighbour, Jordan Cochrane, saw Riggi climb on to the railings of the balcony and remain there for about a minute, rocking backwards and forwards.

As he tried to persuade her not to jump, she "intentionally" fell head first, the court heard.

Mr Cochrane attempted to catch her and push her on to the bonnet of a nearby car to break her fall, and both fell to the ground.

Witness Rabah Alharbi, who also heard the explosion, ran outside and saw Riggi shouting and screaming something like "I can't believe this has happened to me", Mr Prentice said.

The court heard that Riggi, originally from America, had a number of injuries, including four to five stab wounds to her body which were believed to have been self inflicted.

When police entered the house they saw the three children lying side by side on the floor.

They also found three knives nearby, each covered in blood.

Donald Findlay QC, defending, said Riggi - who wept audibly during proceedings - had been intent on suicide on the day of the incident. He said she had left a space for herself between the children's bodies, believing their death was the only way of keeping them safe. He said, if possible, "she loved them too much".

Mr Findlay went on to say a report into Riggi's mental state identified that she was suffering from narcissistic, paranoid and hysterical personality disorders.

"This is without doubt the most tragic and difficult case that I have ever had to deal with in over 35 years in these courts," he said.

Outside the court a statement was read on behalf of Mr Riggi. It said: "Nothing can be said at this or any other time which can mitigate what has happened. I and my extended family loved Austin, Luke and Cecilia dearly and they will live in our minds and hearts forever.

"I don't know what lies ahead but wherever life takes me, my friends and family, it will be with the memory of a dreadful loss and with gratitude for all the good times spent with Austin, Luke and Cecilia.

"My intention now is to move on, which will not be an easy task."

The court had earlier heard both Riggi and her husband, although separated, were living in Aberdeen before Riggi took the children to live at the Slateford Road property in summer 2010, unknown to Mr Riggi.

Mr Prentice added: "The accused was very possessive of the children and felt she was the only person capable of looking after them."

He told the court the behaviour had started from their birth, and had escalated, with Riggi not allowing her husband unsupervised access.

Riggi also insisted the children wore "locators" controlled by her when they were in public places, and later carry mobile phones pre-programmed to call her number.

Lord Kinclaven continued the case for supplementary psychiatric reports.

He told Riggi: "While your responsibility is diminished, you do still have responsibility for your actions and I have to impose a sentence to reflect that."

The case was adjourned until April 26 at the High Court in Glasgow, when sentence is expected to be passed.