Woman who killed disabled son out of desperation is spared jail

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific