Father found guilty of smothering sons after jury rejects ghostly plea

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A father who smothered his two baby sons, four years apart, was found guilty yesterday of their murders.

Darren Jenkinson, 29, was convicted of killing his son Aaron in September 1995, when he was two months old, and another child, Jacob, when he was just three weeks old in October 1999. He was also found guilty of five charges of attempting to murder the two boys at their homes in Glasgow in the weeks before they died.

Jenkinson had denied the charges during a five-week trial at Glasgow High Court, claiming diminished responsibility.

The jury took two hours and 50 minutes to return with majority verdicts on all seven counts. It was one of the first cases in Scotland where a jury was invited to consider verdicts on lesser charges of culpable homicide and assault following new criteria regarding diminished responsibility.

During the trial Jenkinson claimed he was driven to kill by the voice of his dead father. He said he was physically and sexually abused by his father and said he feared that he would, in turn, abuse his own sons. He said a photograph of his father, who died when he was 18, triggered violent flashbacks.

The prosecution dismissed Jenkinson's claims as the "classic response of the devious and deceitful" and said there was no evidence he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or Munchausen by proxy syndrome.

The court was told that Jenkinson smothered the babies as he tended to them at home while his wife, Frances, now aged 24, was either in bed or in another room. He attempted to murder Aaron three times before killing him on 14 October 1995. The death was put down to natural causes and Jenkinson's involvement went undetected.

Four years later, Jacob was born after the couple underwent fertility treatment. When he died, aged three weeks, Jenkinson was interviewed by police. The father at first denied killing his sons but, after several hours of questioning, he admitted smothering them.

When the interview tape containing the confession of how he killed them was played to the jury during the trial, several of the women jurors were led away from the courtroom sobbing. Jenkinson described on the tape, heard for the first time by his wife, how he held a bib over the babies' mouths and noses while holding their legs to stop them wriggling.

Judge Lord McEwan deferred sentencing for reports.