Mother killed son and herself 'to spite father'

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A mother killed her son to "spite" his father, then killed herself after they split up, an inquest heard yesterday.

Emma Hart, 27, gave fatal amounts of prescription drugs to five-year-old Lewis Dangerfield. She then slashed her own wrist, leaving a note in which she told Lewis's father: "Enjoy your life now, nothing is stopping you, ha ha ha."

Lewis's father, Shaun Dangerfield, who had split from Ms Hart and had a new partner, said the last text he received from her in the days before the deaths read: "I know what to do now for the best", and was signed with a kiss. The 27-year-old said that at the time he thought it was an "amicable" response to a disagreement they had had over Lewis's custody arrangements.

But the inquest heard that in a note left by Ms Hart, she told him: "Did you really think I was going to die and allow you to bring Lewis up and play happy families? You made your choice and now you can live with it." She wrote that Mr Dangerfield could "hurt for the rest of your life" as he had put her through "hell", telling him she hated him "enough to take my son with me". She added: "Just remember, it's all your fault."

The bodies were found at separate addresses in Tipton, West Midlands, last December, the inquest in Smethwick, West Midlands, heard.

The Black Country Coroner, Robin Balmain, heard that Lewis died of poisoning, with high levels of a painkiller, Tramadol, discovered in his blood and urine. The same painkiller was among the drugs – including morphine – found in his mother's body, some at levels that could kill, though the coroner heard it was likely she died because of the blood loss from her slashed wrist.

In the weeks before her death, Ms Hart, a cleaner, told friends and family that she was suffering from cancer, but a post-mortem examination showed there was no evidence of this in her body. Her GP confirmed to the inquest that they had never discussed anything to do with cancer, though Ms Hart had complained of stress and anxiety.

As relatives wept in the courtroom, Mr Balmain said: "She was prepared to kill her son to spite Mr Dangerfield. I cannot imagine anything so evil as a mother who would be prepared to do that." The case was "possibly the most distressing" he had ever dealt with in his 25 years as a coroner, he added.

He described how Ms Hart "needed to be in control" and could be driven by "rage and hatred if she did not get her own way". She was prepared to lie about her medical condition to Mr Dangerfield – as well as friends and her own family – "to get control" over her former partner, the coroner said.

Mr Dangerfield had told the inquest his doubts were raised as to Ms Hart's cancer when she told him he "should stop seeing his current girlfriend and go back to her" because of her illness.

Referring to the "severely critical" note that Ms Hart left for Mr Dangerfield, the coroner said that there was no evidence to support her words. "It seems to me that he had done everything he possibly could to fulfil his obligations towards his little boy," he said.

The coroner recorded that Ms Hart had killed herself, with haemorrhaging as the cause of death, while Lewis's death was recorded as an unlawful killing.

Mr Dangerfield said he had lost the "largest part" of his life. He added: "Being told here today the exact reasons as to how Lewis was murdered won't bring him back, but does bring it to an end. Take five minutes to appreciate what you have and imagine what it would be like to have all that taken away from you."