Mother to serve at least 33 years for murdering daughters

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The Independent Online

A father whose two teenage daughters were stabbed to death by his ex-wife spoke today of his "incalculable" loss as she was sentenced to at least 33 years in prison.

David Baker, whose daughters Davina, 16, and Jasmine, 13, were murdered by Rekha Kumari-Baker, said words were not enough to express his feelings.

Kumari-Baker, 41, was found guilty of murder yesterday following a trial at Cambridge Crown Court.

Today Judge Mr Justice Bean imposed two mandatory life sentences and said Kumari-Baker should serve 33 years before being considered for parole.

Kumari-Baker has already spent two years and 92 days in custody and therefore has at least 30 years and 273 days left of her sentence.

The judge said the Parole Board would not consider her for release until 2040, when she will be 72.

During the two-week trial, jurors heard that Kumari-Baker attacked the girls in the early hours of 13 June, 2007 as they slept at her home in Stretham, Cambridgeshire.

She first walked into Davina's bedroom and stabbed her eldest daughter 37 times, then moved into Jasmine's bedroom and stabbed her 29 times.

Evidence showed that Davina - whose body was found kneeling on the floor - had struggled. Jasmine was found dead in bed.

Kumari-Baker attacked the girls with two kitchen knives she bought at an Asda supermarket two days earlier, prosecutors said.

Jurors were told that Kumari-Baker was unhappy about a new relationship her ex-husband had entered into.

She was also upset by the break-up of her new relationship with boyfriend Jeff Powell.

Prosecutors suggested that she murdered the children in an attempt to "wreak havoc" on her ex-husband.

Psychiatrists called by the prosecution said Kumari-Baker was suffering from mild depression but did not have a mental disorder or mental illness.

Kumari-Baker mounted a "diminished responsibility" defence - with lawyers arguing that she had an abnormality of mind which would make her guilty of manslaughter but not murder.

The jury of seven women and five men took 35 minutes to conclude that she was guilty of murder.

Prosecutor John Farmer read extracts from Mr Baker's victim impact statement today as the judge prepared to pass sentence.

"My words may not be sufficient," said Mr Baker in the statement.

"Having them taken away from me in such a brutal way and by the woman who was their mother... has had an incalculable effect."

Mr Baker's statement said he suffered from feelings of guilty and helplessness.

"She tore them from us all and life can't be the same for those who remain."

He added: "Each birthday since has been almost unbearable as I think of what they might have been doing."

Mr Baker said he had been incapable of working since and had attended counselling, but found it of little help.

"Nothing will ever bring my girls back or undo this monstrous act," he said.

"I will never see them again in this life, though they live in my heart."

Mr Justice Bean said Kumari-Baker had been found guilty of two brutal murders on the basis of "clear and compelling evidence".

"Most people will find it inexplicable that a mother could kill her own children and you have given no explanation for it," he said.

"You were certainly upset at the breakdown of your relationship with Jeff Powell.

"On the basis of the evidence of (psychiatrists), I think (a) mild depression was probably combined with a wish to retaliate against David Baker and destroy the happiness in his life.

"But to some extent your motive remains a mystery."

He added: "Despite the diligent and professional efforts of your legal team, the evidence in support of your defence of diminished responsibility was flimsy and unsubstantial.

"You knew quite well what you were doing and you were not mentally ill.

"The crimes were, as the prosecution rightly put it, murder, full stop.

"Davina and Jasmine were cruelly cut down in the prime of life. Their death has been a shattering loss to their father and friends."

The judge said he had considered whether Kumari-Baker should ever be considered for release.

But he said he concluded that the degree of premeditation and planning was significant but not substantial and therefore the case did not justify a "whole life order".

Jurors heard that teachers, social workers and doctors were in contact with Kumari-Baker and her daughters over a number of years.

Davina had behavioural difficulties and teachers met Kumari-Baker to discuss the youngster's progress many times, the court heard.

At one meeting in 2004 Kumari-Baker told teachers that she "wished Davina was dead".

Jurors also heard that Kumari-Baker regularly visited a GP, and had been diagnosed with mild depression and seen by a counsellor.

Social workers were also called in to examine the family's circumstances.

But the judge said: "This is not one of those murder cases, in my view, where the professionals, or anyone else, overlooked some obvious indication that the children were at risk.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing but there was no evidence called in this trial to show that anyone should have seen this terrible crime coming.

"The defendant alone was to blame."

An inquiry into the roles played by teachers, social workers and doctors has begun and will see if lessons could be learned.