Murder accused mother 'tried to protect children'

A woman accused of murdering her two children in a Spanish hotel room today choked back tears as she told a court she tried to "protect" her children from social services.

Lianne Smith, 44, was giving evidence to Manchester Crown Court in defence of her partner, Martin Smith, 45, who is accused of a string of child sex offences.

Miss Smith spoke via a video-link from Spain where she is being held on suspicion of the murder of the couple's two children, Rebecca, five, and son Daniel, 11 months.

Both were found dead in the Hotel Miramar in the resort of Lloret de Mar on the Costa Brava on May 18.

Miss Smith is due to stand trial in Spain accused of their murder.

Today via a grainy, black and white video link from what appeared to be an office, Miss Smith spoke directly at the camera as she was questioned about her partner.

The couple had left the UK in December 2007 after Smith had been accused of the child sex offences, which he denies.

Kim Whittlestone, defending Smith, asked his partner, why they left the UK for Spain.

Fighting back tears, Miss Smith replied: "We left to protect Becky, so...sorry, we left to protect her from Staffordshire Social Services and in particular to protect her from the social workers, who had a mission to take our daughter off us."

Miss Smith said social workers had made the "threat" her daughter would be taken away.

"They had already made that threat on the telephone, they retracted that in front of our lawyer, but they made that threat," she added.

Her partner, originally from North Shields, is accused of using hypnotism and violence to groom and sexually abuse a young girl, who he had regular access to, over the period of a decade.

He was extradited back to the UK earlier this year to stand trial on the child sex allegations and is not linked to the children's deaths.

Miss Smith said she had first met Martin Smith in October 1992, through a dating agency, while she was going through a divorce from her first husband and was then living in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear.

They had since been together for 18 years, the court heard.

Asked to describe him, she said he was, "very, very friendly, generous, kind."

She added: "Martin, from the very first day, always seemed to be the most honest person I have ever known. We could talk about everything and anything."

The court heard Miss Smith had at one time declared herself bankrupt, while Martin Smith worked as a singer in a band in clubs in the North East.

He had also worked at Butlins and as an entertainer on ferries and at one point was recording an album in London for a time.

She also told the jury she had practised "energy healing" and studied for an Open University degree in Education and Social Work.

She said Smith had "never" been violent towards her.

"I would have ended the relationship. No, I would never have stayed with him if there had been."

Ms Whittlestone asked if she ever had any concerns about her partner or inappropriate behaviour with young girls.

"No never. Never," she replied.

Smith denies 11 specimen charges of rape, attempted rape, indecency with a child and indecent assault, spanning nine years from May 1995 to May 2004.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow morning when the jury will hear closing speeches from counsel and the judges summing-up of the evidence, before they are sent out to consider their verdicts.