Solicitor did kill baby sons, rules Court of Appeal

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The Independent Online

A solicitor serving life for the murder of her two baby sons had her appeal against conviction thrown out yesterday after three judges ruled that the evidence against her was "overwhelming".

A solicitor serving life for the murder of her two baby sons had her appeal against conviction thrown out yesterday after three judges ruled that the evidence against her was "overwhelming".

Sally Clark, 34, wept as the Court of Appeal in London was told there were no grounds for quashing the verdicts against her, despite a claim that statistics used by the prosecution at her trial misled the jury.

The high-flying lawyer was convicted last November of killing her 11-week-old son Christopher in December 1996 and her younger son, eight-week-old Harry, a year later.

Her husband, Stephen Clark, attacked the finding as "wrong" and made an emotional vow to fight for his wife's release. She mouthed the words "I love you" to him from the dock as the appeal decision was delivered to a packed court.

Standing outside the court, Mr Clark, 34, also a corporate lawyer, said: "For 72 days and as many dark nights, Sally and I have been waiting. Now, three judges, eminent, respected, with intellect beyond ours, decree that Sally did murder her sons. She did not. They are wrong."

Mrs Clark, of Wilmslow, Cheshire, has always insisted that her children died in a rare tragedy as a result of so-called cot death or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids).

Prosecutors alleged instead that the mother, who was suffering from depression during the period in which she killed her sons, either smothered or shook the children to death.

Lawyers for Mrs Clark put forward five grounds for overturning her conviction at a hearing in July this year.

Central to the appeal was a claim that evidence given by a key prosecution medical witness, Sir Roy Meadow, was incorrect. Sir Roy put the chances of two children from the same family dying of Sids at 73 million to one.

However, Mrs Clark's legal team claimed that the true figure was closer to one in 8,500, producing evidence from the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths that a double cot death happens in Britain once every 18 months.

In an 82-page written judgment, Lord Justice Henry, chairman of the appeal panel, said the trial judge should have dismissed the 73-million-to-one figure as a "distraction" and not directed the jury to consider the prosecution statistics.

But the Court of Appeal judge said the point was of "minimal significance", adding that the combined weight of medical and circumstantial evidence against Mrs Clark made her conviction safe.

He wrote: "We consider that there was an overwhelming case against the appellant at trial. If there had been no error in relation to statistics at the trial, we are satisfied that the jury would still have convicted on each count."

Mrs Clark, daughter of a police superintendent, had either been alone with her sons or her husband had been about to go away on business at the time of the killings, the court was told.

Also of significance was the fact that Christopher and Harry were both of the same approximate age, were found dead at almost exactly the same time (9.30pm) and had both showed signs of previous physical abuse.

The judges also criticised Mr Clark for giving "untrue evidence" at the trial about the time he returned home on the night of Harry's death. He had initially claimed he was home two and a half hours earlier.

But the solicitor, whose third son with his wife was recently returned after a period in care, emerged from the Royal Courts of Justice defiant. He said: "I take heart for, though the years may drip slowly by, sense has a way of seeping, even through these walls ... Sally will be released."