Mother who murdered her two children in Spanish hotel sentenced to 30 years

Lianne Smith admitted killing her son and daughter because she feared they would be taken away from her

A woman who admitted smothering her 11-month-old son and five-year-old daughter in a Spanish hotel room has been jailed for 30 years.

Lianne Smith claimed she murdered her son, Daniel, and daughter, Rebecca, with a plastic bag in her room at the Miramar Hotel in Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava, in 2010, because she feared they would be taken away after her partner, Martin Smith, was arrested on sex offence charges.

The family had been living in Spain since 2007 after fleeing Lichfield, Staffordshire, when Smith's eldest daughter by her first husband accused Martin Smith of sexually abusing her.

Martin Smith, originally from North Shields, had been a singer working in North-east clubs before working as a TV psychic. Lianne Smith was living in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, and going through a divorce from her first husband when she met him through a dating agency in October 1992.

Previously the couple lived together in a caravan in Northumberland, with Lianne's two children from her previous marriage. Later they moved to Cumbria, where Lianne worked as a manager at Cumbria County Council's children's services department.

The murders took place shortly after Martin Smith had been arrested in Barcelona by Spanish police acting on a European warrant.

Lianne Smith, 45, thought British social services had travelled to Spain to take her children away from her.

During the trial jurors heard how Smith had made several failed suicide attempts after the killings. These included cutting herself with razors, covering her head with a plastic bag, attempting to hang herself and trying to drown herself in the bath.

She left four notes and an envelope containing money for the hotel bills before the suicide attempts.

"I love you very much. I haven't been able to give you a marvellous life together. I am so sorry," read one of the notes, addressed to her two children.

The next day she walked into the hotel reception and asked police for an ambulance to be called.

She led an officer into her room and pointed to a bed where the dead children lay covered by sheets, and confessed to the murders.

Last month, jurors at a provincial court in north-east Spain decided that Smith was criminally responsible for her children's deaths, despite her defence lawyers' pleas that she had been in a state of "psychiatric disturbance" at the time. "This was the end of the road. I knew my children would be taken back to England," Smith told Spanish officers in a video interview that was showed to jurors.

She added: "I felt I was in a corner and my intention was for me and my children to go. It was not just the children, it was me as well."

In December 2010, her partner Martin Smith was found guilty at Manchester Crown Court of using hypnotism, bullying and violence to groom and sexually abuse Smith's eldest daughter, Sarah Richardson, who has waived her right to anonymity.

He was found hanged in his cell at Strangeways Prison in Manchester in January.

Despite prosecutors seeking a jail term of 34 years, Smith was sentenced to serve 30 years behind bars yesterday – a 15-year sentence for each of the murders. Judge Adolfo Garcia Morales said he was imposing the minimum sentence for murder because he considered that, although responsible for her actions, Smith was suffering a degree of "mental disturbance" when she committed the crimes.

"The jury stressed that this mental disturbance was not as important as the defence had argued," he said in a written sentence.

It read: "This was based on facts such as several suicide attempts made by Smith, a statement she gave during which she appeared normal and did not make any significant mistakes as she described what had happened and how it happened, the composition of several coherent notes, and the calculations that she made in order to pay what she believed she still owed to the hotel."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'