Mother found guilty of killing babies to appeal anew

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Sally Clark, the solicitor who is serving a life sentence for murdering her two baby boys, is launching a fresh appeal against her conviction based on what is said to be vital new evidence on cot deaths.

Clark, 36, was found guilty in November 1999 of smothering 11-week-old Christopher in 1996 and shaking eight-week-old Harry to death a year later at the home she shared with her husband Stephen, 38, in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

She has always denied the charges but an application to the Court of Appeal failed last year after judges found the case against her was "overwhelming" and pointed to evidence of previous abuse. Clark was also refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

The Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal suspended Clark indefinitely from legal work after her conviction but stopped short of striking her off. Shetold the tribunal she had been advised before her trial that if she pleaded guilty to infanticide she would probably not be jailed. "I am where I am today because I could not tell any lies," she added.

Her defence team is now preparing a fresh case after a "cot death gene" was discovered by researchers at Manchester University. John Batt, a solicitor and family friend, said he was "very encouraged" by the discovery. He said it would count as fresh evidence to be presented to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which could then refer the case back to the Court of Appeal.

Clark's supporters claim that a "climate of suspicion" surrounds women who suffer two or more cot deaths based on a theory by a leading paediatrician, Professor Sir Roy Meadow, that unless proven otherwise, "two is suspicious, three is murder". "Meadow's Law" is said to have been unquestioningly adopted by lawyers, doctors and the police.

Professor Meadow told Clark's trial at Chester Crown Court that there was "one chance in 73 million" of the babies both dying of natural causes. Other scientists say a genetic cause of the babies' deaths would make the probability as high as one in four.

Mr Batt said: "There are a number of grounds for appeal but the discovery of a cot death gene is of huge significance. We are going to get all the professional help we can.

"A number of different aspects of fresh evidence are emerging all the time. I get calls from all around the world. Other countries are suffering from the same problem that cot death mothers are being convicted of murder when it appears there may be a genetic link." Clark is said to be "extremely encouraged" by the development.