New Malden mother charged with murder of three young disabled children

She ‘bore the brunt’ of struggle to care for her children, her friends said

A mother has been charged with the murder of her three children who were found dead at a house in New Malden, South-West Malden, Scotland Yard said on Thursday.

Friends of Tania Clarance had earlier described her struggle to cope with the demands of caring for her young family.

The children, four-year-old Olivia and three-year-old twins Ben and Max, suffered from Spinal Muscular Astrophy, a genetic muscle-wasting disease that meant they were likely to spend all of their short lives in wheelchairs.

Officers found the children dead at their large family home in New Malden, south west London, on Tuesday night.

She and her husband Gary, a director at the City bank Investec, are both originally from South Africa, and a friend of the family told the website Times Live that Ms Clarence “bore the brunt” of caring for the children.

Mr Clarence and the couple’s healthy eldest daughter were reportedly away in South Africa when the deaths occurred.

The friend said: “They (Tania and Gary) did not go and have babies knowing they were giving them a genetic disease. She's been slammed for having three kids with SMA.

“They had the one child, their second child, who was young, only a few months old, when she fell pregnant (with the twins). It was not planned, but they felt they could cope.

Tributes are displayed outside the house in New Malden Tributes are displayed outside the house in New Malden “While she was pregnant, the second child was diagnosed as having SMA. The twins were then born premature and they stayed in hospital for a long time. The (parents) then asked for the twins to be tested for SMA as well.

“She came home with three kids severely disabled.

“Everything was regulated, everything they ate diarised. I bet Tania had not had a decent night's sleep in a few years.”

The friend said the three children needed feeding tubes and, while the couple employed a carer and home help, they did not have round-the-clock assistance.

Gary Clarence with his three-year-old twin sons Gary Clarence with his three-year-old twin sons The friend added: “They tried to have a normal family life in the evening, by not having a house full of carers. Tania's borne the brunt (of it). Gary is a businessman and had to (travel).

“Everybody who met her could not but be compassionate. Most would think 'There but for the grace of God go I'.

“Everybody complains about their kids but at least they're healthy. It just puts your life into perspective.”

On Wednesday neighbours said the family received support from social services but raised questions about the level of help. Ms Clarence had told friends she felt that the attitude of her local authority, the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, was “judgemental” and they  had taken the attitude that she should “get on with it and pull herself together”.

Police forensic officers leave the house in New Malden where the bodies of three children were found Police forensic officers leave the house in New Malden where the bodies of three children were found A spokesman for Kingston council said that it was looking into contacts with the family. “We are deeply saddened to hear of the deaths of three children from New Malden,” he added.

Spinal muscular atrophy causes muscle weakness and progressive loss of movement, owing to deterioration in nerve cells connecting the brain and spinal cord to the muscles. The two most severe types – which affect babies less than 18 months old – lead to fatalities in most cases. The most common form stems from a genetic problem copied from each parent. There is no known cure.

Police said they are still holding Mrs Clarence at a south London police station. Post-mortem examinations into the deaths were due to be held on Thursday at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Scotland Yard said.

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

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee