A mother who murdered her three-year-old son because he was an "inconvenience" to her social life was jailed yesterday for 10 years.
Tara Haigh, 24, smothered her son, Billy, with a pillow and then went online to try to find a boyfriend on a dating website, the Old Bailey heard.
Sentencing her yesterday, Judge Peter Thornton QC said: "The circumstances of Billy's death do not bear thinking about. He would have struggled against you for his life, fighting against his mother whom he had loved and trusted, until he was overpowered by your superior strength and will."
During the trial, the Old Bailey was told that Haigh had killed Billy at her home in Guildford, Surrey, in November 2005. Later, she called 999 and told medical staff that she had put the boy to bed, but found him collapsed when she went to check on him.
After emergency attempts to resuscitate him in hospital failed, Haigh went to her parents' home.
Sally Howes, QC, for the prosecution, said: "An examination of the computer showed that, within a few hours of her son's death, she was accessing messages that were sent to her by men on the website Girls Date Free."
She even arranged a date with one man, posting a message on the website saying that her son had died from a tumour behind the ear.
Ms Howes revealed that, on a previous occasion in January that year, an ambulance had been called to a previous address where Billy and his parents were living. The caller said Billy had stopped breathing but he was found to be fit and well. He was later seen by a specialist who could find nothing wrong with him.
The lawyer also told the court that Billy was on the local social services "at risk" register for neglect and that Haigh had learning difficulties and Billy's father was in prison at the time for assaulting her.
Robin Spencer QC, for the defence, said: "This offence was a dreadful and tragic aberration which may have some link to the problems, emotional and intellectual, she suffers from."
The judge said that it was not completely clear why Haigh had killed Billy. He told her: "Billy was a well and happy child whose life was cruelly taken away from him. You killed your son, a vulnerable child in your care and protection.
"You were, I accept, a good and loving parent doing the best you could. There was no accusation of cruelty and losing your child, all be it by your own hand, must have been a punishment for you."
But, after the trial, Detective Inspector Jo Sidaway said: "Tara Haigh saw her son as an inconvenience to the life of socialising and dating that she wanted to lead. Her inability to put Billy's needs ahead of her own culminated in her taking his life prematurely."
Det Insp Sidaway added: "The death of a child in any circumstances is incredibly sad. However, the murder of someone so young by the one person who should be caring for them most has been an upsetting and, thankfully, unusual crime to investigate."Reuse content