New Malden deaths: Mother Tania Clarence sent to secure hospital as court hears children were 'probably suffocated'

Ms Clarence is accused of killing her disabled three-year-old twin sons and four-year-old daughter

Three young children who were found dead at a property in New Malden most likely died of suffocation, a court has heard, as the mother accused of their murder was remanded to a secure hospital today.

Tania Clarence, 42, is accused of killing her three-year-old twin sons, Ben and Max, and four year-old daughter, Olivia, at their home.

Wearing black jeans and a black zip-up fleece jumper, Ms Clarence sobbed as she appeared via video-link at the Old Bailey to hear if she would be granted bail.

All three of the young children suffered from type 2 spinal muscular atrophy.

Also known as floppy baby syndrome, the genetic condition leaves children with little control of their movements and can drastically shorten life expectancy.

Police were called to the family's five-bedroom home in Thetford Road in the wealthy south west London suburb of New Malden at 9.30pm last Tuesday where they discovered the children, who were pronounced dead at the scene.

Mrs Clarence was treated at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London, and charged on 24 April- two days after the bodies were found.

The Old Bailey heard that post-mortem examinations suggested that the three children had died from suffocation.

But authorities are waiting for further tests, including toxicology tests, to be carried out before a final cause of death can be given.

Zoe Johnson QC, prosecuting, told the Old Bailey: "By way of preliminary statement, Dr Nathaniel Carey, the pathologist, has indicated that the provisional cause of death is probably suffocation.

In an unusual move, Judge Brian Barker, the Recorder of London, ruled that Mrs Clarence could be released from prison and enter a secure hospital under the Mental Health Act.

He told the court: "There is a combination of circumstances here that makes this an exceptional case and allows this court to take an exceptional course.”

Gary Clarence, 43, the children’s father, was supported by friends as he sat in the public gallery during the bail hearing. Mr Clarence, who works at the City bank Investec, is said to have been away in the family's native South Africa with their eldest daughter at the time of the deaths.

Mrs Clarence is originally from South Africa and moved to Britain with her husband some years ago.

A plea and case management hearing will be held at the Old Bailey on 15 July.