Woman jailed for killing daughter

 

A woman is starting a seven-year jail term tonight after being found guilty of smothering her three-year-old daughter, six months after her baby son also died.

A judge said Lesley Dunford, 33, turned from "carer to killer" when she ended the life of her daughter eight years ago.

Dunford inflicted fatal injuries on the toddler, who was found with bruising under the skin around her shoulders and neck.

The child also had a cut above her left eyebrow which jurors heard could have been caused by hitting a hard surface such as the headboard of a bed.

Dunford, had denied murdering her daughter at her home in Sussex on February 2 2004.

As jurors at Lewes Crown Court convicted her of manslaughter but cleared her of murder, she stared at Judge Richard Brown, emotionless.

He told her: "It may well be that you are the only one who knows exactly what happened on that dreadful day in 2004 which took you from carer to killer.

"Since then you have done your level best to lie your way out of any responsibility."

The judge said Dunford, described by her defence barrister as "vulnerable", had exhibited "little or no remorse" for her actions.

He added: "The fact remains that whatever did happen you did, in fact, kill your child and the courts have to protect little people  from being subjected to violence."

Her daughter’s death happened six months after the death of  her seven-month-old son who was found dead in his cot at their home on August 3 2003.

Dunford was arrested two days after her daughter’s death  but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to prosecute her based largely on conflicting reports from pathologists.

At an inquest into her death in February 2009, the East Sussex coroner adjourned the hearing for further examination of the case, and five months later Dunford was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Detective Constable Janice Dempsey, of Sussex Police, told the court that as she was arrested Dunford told her: "I have been waiting for this to happen."

She said Mr Dunford had comforted his wife and said: "We have been expecting this. We knew this was coming. It has been a long time."

Later, in a police interview, Dunford - who had no previous convictions - denied killing her child and said she had never struggled as a mother.

She told officers: "I did not kill her. I have no reason to kill her."

The jury heard that Dunford did not try to resuscitate her daughter when she found her because she was too frightened to touch her.

Instead she phoned a friend, who came round. It was only when she arrived at the family home that an ambulance was called.

Following today's sentencing, police said the death  her baby son had been investigated and there was no evidence to justify a prosecution or any reopening of the inquiry.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Sloan, of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, said: "This was a tragic case for everybody.

"There was a thorough police investigation at the time but the forensic evidence then did not support a prosecution.

"However, my team has carried out a very thorough analysis of all the evidence and we are very glad to see that justice has now been done.

"Several of the witnesses who gave evidence in support of the prosecution have had to revisit a very harrowing episode of their lives and we pay tribute to the dignified way in which they conducted themselves.

"The death of  her daughter was immediately treated as suspicious by Sussex Police. Mrs Durnford was arrested and interviewed and there was a thorough investigation.

"However, based on the information available at the time, the CPS decision was that there was insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution.

"The CPS decision turned largely on reports from two pathologists, which were conflicting."

Simon Ringrose, of the CPS, said: "This was a difficult and complex case that involved evidence from a number of medical experts.

"The reinvestigation into the circumstances of  her daughter’s death included obtaining further medical evidence.

"This evidence effectively ruled out a natural cause of death and was consistent with  the child having been suffocated. The only person who could have done this was her mother, Lesley Dunford.

"Her death was a tragic waste of life. Lesley Dunford's conviction finally brings a conclusion to what has been a lengthy process to establish how she died.

"The CPS, police and prosecuting counsel worked closely in reviewing the case and ensuring that a compelling case was presented to the jury."

Mr Dunford left court without speaking to reporters.

PA

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past