Nurse jailed for 18 years for parents' murders

A nurse found guilty of using "extreme violence" to murder her elderly parents was jailed for life today with a minimum term of 18 years.

Susan Toop killed her father, Arthur Toop, 82, and mother, Joan, 74, at their bungalow in Uplands Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, on November 28, 2008.

The unmarried 54-year-old, who lived with her parents, stabbed them several times before hitting them repeatedly with an ornamental flat iron.

Toop had pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but was found guilty of murder by a jury at Winchester Crown Court in July.

She was sentenced at the Royal Courts of Justice in London today by Mr Justice David Clarke, who imposed two life terms.

Toop, who was present in the dock of the court, was told by the judge that she had done a "terrible thing", killing her parents with "great violence".

He described it as a "sad and tragic" case.

The judge said the jurors convicted Toop of the murder of both her parents and the verdict was one they were "entirely entitled to reach".

He told Toop that although there was "clear evidence of abnormality of mind", the jury clearly thought it did not "significantly or substantially reduce your responsibility for the terrible thing you did in killing your parents that night".

Toop, who had worked as a clinical leader at the outpatients department of the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, told police she wanted to put her parents "out of their misery".

But during the trial the prosecution said her parents had a good quality of life and were not "miserable".

Passing sentence today, the judge said: "Your motivation for killing your parents is far from clear even now.

"It appears that you had come to believe that they were ready to die or wished to die, but it must be made quite clear that there is no objective evidence... that supports that view.

"It was a false belief."

Mr Justice Clarke said the evidence was that the defendant's mother, who was a "forceful personality", had "become quite unhappy for various reasons later in her life".

He added: "She seemed to resent the closeness between you and her husband, your father.

"She became a difficult person to get on with, but that does not mean by any means that she wanted to die."

The evidence about her father was that he still enjoyed life in his declining years and "continued to value his relationship with you, his only child".

Toop, who had no previous convictions and worked for many years as a "well respected and valued nurse", killed her parents with "extreme violence".

The judge stressed that 18 years was only a minimum term and she would not be automatically released at the end of that period.

"That is something that must be assessed at the time," he added.