Depressed mother throws children off cliff and then jumps after them

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The Independent Online

A young mother found dead with her two children at the foot of a Scottish cliff is believed to have thrown them off and committed suicide.

Daniella Smith, 31, was possibly suffering from post-natal depression. She was last seen on Monday afternoon pushing her six-week-old son, Samuel, and two-year-old daughter, Natasha, in a pushchair near a beauty spot on the outskirts of Perth.

When she failed to return home on Monday evening, worried relatives contacted police. All three bodies were discovered within a few metres of each other near the bottom of Kinnoull Hill in Perth yesterday morning.

Ms Smith, a known agoraphobic who had not left her house since last summer, was understood to be suffering from a depressive illness and Tayside Police said it was not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths. Detective Inspector Bruce Kerr, who is leading the investigation, said the mother and her children had plunged about 100 feet to a ledge on the side of the hill. Police officers had to use ropes to retrieve the bodies. "She had a history of medical problems and because of that her going missing gave us great cause for concern," Insp Kerr said.

A neighbour had reported seeing the family on Monday morning as they walked the four miles from their flat in Perth, where Ms Smith lived with her partner, Lyle Paton, to Kinnoull Hill, which has become well known as a suicide spot in recent years. The 729ft-high hill on the eastern bank of the river Tay is a popular area for walkers but consists of a series of sheer cliffs overlooking the M90 and A90.

Police attempting to trace the family's last moments said they had been seen on Perth town centre's CCTV system an hour after they were reported missing by her partner's family but by the time officers arrived to try to intercept her, Ms Smith had given them the slip.

She was spotted again by a woman walking on the hill near to the Quarry car park shortly after 4pm and police believe that it was within minutes of that last sighting that Ms Smith pushed her children over the cliff, still strapped in their pushchair, and then jumped after them.

Mr Paton, the children's father, had been at work when Ms Smith left the house with the children. Yesterday he was being comforted by relatives at the family home.

Last night Perth and Kinross social services department were trying to find out when the family had last been visited. Police and health workers were examining the possibility that Ms Smith may have suffered from post-natal depression.