Mother spared jail after killing her baby in fire

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The Independent Online

A mother suffering from post-natal depression has been spared a prison sentence for killing her four-month-old son in a fire.

Danielle Wails, 22, who had claimed two intruders had tied her up and set fire to her home in Newcastle upon Tyne, was given three years' probation after she admitted infanticide.

Newcastle Crown Court was told Wails had staged the fire in an effort to win back the child's father, from whom she had split. Two psychiatrists agreed she was suffering from post-natal depression and the balance of her mind was disturbed at the time of the killing, in August last year.

Detectives had launched a manhunt for the men Wails claimed had attacked her. She said she had been knocked unconscious and when she awoke, the lounge was alight, trapping her son. Wails said she had used her tongue to dial 999 .

Wails, who had split from the baby's father, Robert Gallon, was living in a two-bedroom house provided by a charity for single mothers. But detectives discovered that batteries had been taken out of the smoke alarms, the front door key was hidden in the house, and Wails appeared to have tied her own wrists with phone cord. She was charged with Alexander's murder, but on the first day of the trial in August, her guilty plea to infanticide was accepted.

Paul Sloan QC, for the prosecution, told the court yesterday that neighbours heard Wails shouting through the letterbox: "My house is on fire. My baby, my baby."

The baby was taken to hospital, but pronounced dead. He had severe burns; his mother had only minor bruises and grazes.

The court heard that Wails had been diagnosed with the symptoms of post-natal depression in the months before the killing. She falsely told people that Alexander was ill and needed hospital treatment. Wails also told friends she had been attacked in Newcastle city centre and had lost twins and triplets.

But all the time Wails had been bombarding Mr Gallon and his family with phone calls and text messages in a futile bid to reconcile their relationship. Mr Sloan told the court: "It would seem that the underlying purpose behind these false claims was to win back her partner's sympathies and support."

Outside court, Detective Superintendent Barbara Franklin, who led the inquiry, said: "Danielle has never shown any real grief or remorse over the death of her baby."