Woman who killed disabled son out of desperation is spared jail

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The Independent Online

A mentally ill woman who strangled her severely disabled son because she said she could no longer cope with looking after him has been spared jail.

Yvonne Freaney, 50, admitted to strangling 11-year-old Glen with a belt in a hotel near Cardiff airport in May last year.

After killing her son, who was autistic, she then tried to commit suicide by cutting her wrists and taking an overdose.

Mrs Freaney was cleared of murder by a judge yesterday, but convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The court had heard during the proceedings how she had been a victim of domestic violence for some years, and suffered from a severe personality disorder.

Judge Mr Justice Wyn Williams agreed with psychiatrists that Mrs Freaney's culpability very low, and that she had acted out of sheer desperation. He sentenced her to a three-year supervision order, describing the sentencing as "the most difficult one I have ever undertaken". He told her: "There can be no doubt that you absolutely devoted to your son. You had a personality disorder and suffered from a very severe abnormality of the mind. The series of events you went through would have been difficult for even a person of robust personality."

The court heard she had suffered years of physical abuse by her husband Mark, a former RAF serviceman, whom she married in 1996. On the day she killed Glen, she was discovered alive in the Sky Plaza Hotel room in Rhoose, near Cardiff Airport, despite injuries sustained trying to cut her wrists and taking an overdose.

As she was arrested, she told emergency services: "It's funny. He was laughing when I was strangling him. That is when I knew he was happy. I had to do it because now no one can point fingers at him. My regret is that I couldn't end my own life."

As well as being Glen's main carer, Mrs Freaney also looked after her three other children as well as her elderly mother.

Defending barrister John Charles Rees QC called the prospect of imposing an immediate prison term as a "pointless exercise" given that Mrs Freaney had "effectively been in custody" since being arrested – and would be out on licence soon.

Mr Justice Williams agreed, saying he believed Mrs Freaney had been "punished enough". However, while he accepted there was low risk of her re-offending, he said she needed help to address her mental health issues.

As part of her supervision order, Mrs Freaney will have to fully co-operate with her psychiatrist and live in a residence approved by the Probation Service, the location of which is banned by court order from being published.

She is also prevented from having any unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18.