England

Child-murders mother Fiona Donnison jailed for life

Fiona Donnison
Image caption Donnison was described in court as a narcissist with an overdeveloped sense of self-importance

A mother found guilty of murdering her two young children has been sentenced to a minimum of 32 years in prison.

Fiona Donnison, 45, of Lightwater, Surrey, had denied the murders of Harry, aged three, and two-year-old Elise, in a trial at Lewes Crown Court.

Their bodies were found in holdalls in the boot of Donnison's car, near the former family home in East Sussex.

Donnison was jailed for life, with a minimum tariff of 32 years, following the killings in January 2010.

Judge Mr Justice Nicol described the murders as "deliberate and wicked acts".

He said: "The premature end of such young lives would have been a tragedy, but this was no accident.

"You killed them, you who were their mother. Why you did this defies logical explanation.

"It seems it can only have something to do with your feelings for Paul Donnison, the children's father and your former partner."

Speaking outside court, Mr Donnison, 48, said the pain his family had suffered was "almost unbearable."

He also criticised the criminal justice system, saying it was "biased" in favour of the person on trial and his former partner had been treated "with kid gloves".

'Ultimate pawns'

Following the sentencing, it can also be revealed that prosecutors attempted to have Donnison tried for the murder of her first child with Mr Donnison.

After the deaths of Harry and Elise, investigators decided to look again at the circumstances behind the death of nine-month-old Mia, who died of a suspected cot death in April 2004.

Prosecutors said that "taken together" there was sufficient evidence for a jury to consider a murder charge in her case.

But at a pre-trial hearing, Mr Justice Cooke ruled to dismiss the charge of murdering Mia, saying there was no direct evidence in relation to her death.

Donnison had earlier chosen to stay in the cells as the jury returned its unanimous guilty verdict.

Jurors heard claims Donnison, a former City worker, used the children as the "ultimate pawns", in her vendetta against their father.

Prosecutors told the court she smothered the children with their bedding before putting their bodies in the car.

Donnison declined to give evidence during the trial.

But the defence argued she had suffered from depression at the time and said the charges should be reduced to manslaughter.

Jurors heard from mental health professionals who said Donnison swallowed a blade from a pencil sharpener earlier this year, could not remember events surrounding the deaths and could not bring herself to say the children's names.

Image caption The children's bodies were found in holdalls in the boot of their mother's car near their former home

'Calculating killer'

But prosecutors dismissed this, pointing to the level of planning involved in the killings.

One clinical psychologist said she believed Donnison to have been "100% likely to be feigning" psychological problems or symptoms.

Donnison was also described in court as a narcissist with an overdeveloped sense of self-importance and entitlement.

Prosecutor Libby Clark said: "Harry and Elise were regarded as delightful, well-mannered and affectionate children by all who came into contact with them.

"Their lives were ended in a sudden and brutal act of revenge by the their mother.

"The jury has accepted the Crown's case that Fiona Donnison was not the victim she portrayed herself to be, but a calculating killer of her own children."

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