Woman drank as girls, 8, drowned

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The Independent Online
TWO EIGHT-YEAR-OLD girls drowned in a river while the woman who was meant to be looking after them was drinking and smoking cannabis, a court was told yesterday.

Wendy Dodd, 41, pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court to wilful neglect of Jasmine Neville and Charlea Fox, who died in the River Wharfe near Arthington, West Yorkshire. A verdict of not guilty was recorded on two counts of manslaughter.

Mr James Stewart QC, for the prosecution, said a group of people, including Dodd, and Charlea's parents, David and Maxine Fox, went to the river on 21 July 1997 for a barbecue to celebrate Charlea's eighth birthday. He said witnesses had described the adults as being "the worse for wear", and told the court that Dodd, formerly of Burley, Leeds, had been left alone with Charlea and Jasmine, also from Burley.

Dodd had seen two gypsy boys and invited them over "for a spliff", the court heard. It was after this she realised the girls were missing. At 10.20pm divers found their bodies in deep water.

Mr Justice Poole postponed sentencing pending medical and psychiatric reports. Dodd was released on bail.

Robert Fitzgerald, the partner of Jasmine's mother, Joanne Shaw, said: "We are pleased the trial is over."

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