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

“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

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

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.