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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory