A mother who stabbed her three young children to death in a "heinous" attack after fearing she would lose them in a bitter custody row was beginning a 16-year jail term tonight.
Theresa Riggi, 47, showed a "truly disturbing degree of violence" when she killed her eight-year-old twins, Austin and Luke, and her five-year-old daughter, Cecilia, at their Edinburgh home last August, a judge said.
Her "abnormal and possessive love" for her children led her to stab them, before trying to take her own life, in the belief that all four would be together forever in the afterlife.
Their bloodstained bodies were found lying side by side at a townhouse in Slateford Road following a gas explosion at the building.
Their grief-stricken father, Pasquale Riggi, said today that no sentence could make amends for his "overwhelming" loss as he spoke of his pain at being unable to protect his "wonderful, energetic, bright and happy children" from their mother.
Mr Riggi, who watched today's proceedings at the High Court in Glasgow from the public gallery, wore a trio of ribbons - red, yellow and pink - one for each of his dead children.
In a statement read on his behalf, he said afterwards: "The horrific manner in which my children died will leave an indelible mark on the rest of my life. As a father, my natural instincts were geared towards safeguarding my children from the dangers of this world.
"It pains me to the core that I was unable to protect them from the selfish, brutal and murderous act that ended their lives so unfairly.
"There is no justification for this heinous crime, repeated three times, nor is there any sentence that can provide justice for the overwhelming loss of three lives and the subsequent painful grief and devastation caused to surviving family and friends."
Riggi was initially charged with murder but previously admitted three counts of the reduced charge of culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Passing sentence today, judge Lord Bracadale told Riggi that her actions had caused a "devastating family tragedy".
He said: "The father of the children, Pasquale Riggi, and the wider family have been left utterly bereft by the loss of the children. And you, who had a genuine but abnormal and possessive love of your children, have lost them and are brought to this sorry pass."
Lord Bracadale added: "The number and nature of the stab wounds to each child is indicative of a truly disturbing degree of violence which, in order to bring about the deaths of three children, must have been sustained over a significant period of time. It is difficult to envisage the physical commission of such acts.
"It is clear that any degree of responsibility for such ghastly and grotesque acts must be visited with a lengthy sentence of imprisonment."
The judge told Riggi, who is originally from the US, she would be deported after she has served her sentence.
As the judge spoke of the degree of violence inflicted on the children, Riggi, who sobbed openly throughout proceedings, cried out: "No. No."
All three children were found stabbed to death on the afternoon of August 4 last year.
Defence QC Donald Findlay said Riggi is "tortured" every day by what she has done and is "resentful" that her life was saved. He said: "They were part of her and she was part of them. One and indivisible. The children were her whole life."
After sentencing, Detective Superintendent Allan Jones, of Lothian and Borders Police, said: "This has been a very sad case in which the lives of three beautiful young children were cut tragically short."