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Jailed mother Lesley Dunford given 13 years for baby murder

Lesley Dunford arriving at Lewes Crown Court on 29 January Image copyright Eddie Mitchell
Image caption Lesley Dunford (right) is already serving a seven-year sentence for the manslaughter of her daughter

A mother already serving a jail term for killing her daughter has been jailed for murdering her baby son, after confessing to the crime in jail.

Harley Dunford was found dead in his cot at their East Sussex home in 2003, the Old Bailey heard.

Lesley Dunford, 37, formerly of Windermere Close, Exeter, pleaded guilty to his murder in March after changing her plea twice.

She was jailed for seven years in 2012 for killing Lucy, aged three, in 2004.

Image caption Harley and Lucy Dunford were both killed at the family home in Camber, East Sussex
Image copyright Sussex Police
Image caption Dunford wrote a prison confession saying she pushed Harley's face into the mattress

Dunford was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 13 years, for murdering seven-month-old Harley at the house in Camber, on 27 August 2003, six months before Lucy's death.

While serving her sentence for the killing of Lucy, she admitted involvement in both deaths to prison staff, saying she was "riddled with guilt".

She told officers that she had been having "flashbacks and nightmares" about what she had done.

'Blood from nose'

In her confession, she wrote: "Something clicked in my head and I went back into the room walked over to his cot and pushed his face into the mattress until he stopped breathing.

"And then I put his head to the side and noticed there was blood and foam coming out of his nose. That's when I knew I had hurt him and I don't know why I had done it."

Jailing Dunford, Mr Justice Baker said: "The reality is, had you not confessed to killing Harley whilst in custody, it is highly likely there would not have been a police investigation into his death and you would not have faced prosecution for murder."

Image caption Dunford's husband Wayne attended court during her trial for the killing of their daughter in 2012

No inquest was held into Harley's death at the time as he was believed to have died from natural causes.

In a statement following the sentencing, Dunford's husband Wayne said he "forgives her".

But he said: "This has been a very difficult time for myself. Lesley lied to me about what had happened with the children.

"She was very good at this and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to family and friends for this deceit that lasted for a decade."

The jury at her first trial was told Dunford had epilepsy but had not been diagnosed with psychiatric or autism problems.

After she was convicted of the three-year-old's manslaughter, Sussex Police said Harley's death was fully investigated at the time and there were no plans to re-open the case.

But, detectives started a new investigation into how he died in June 2014, after Dunford wrote the confession in prison.


Double killer case: Timeline

  • August 2003 - Dunford's seven-month-old son Harley is found dead in his cot. No inquest is held as he is believed to have died from natural causes
  • February 2004 - Dunford smothers her daughter Lucy in her bed. She later claims she found the three-year-old not breathing. Three post-mortem examinations show she died from asphyxia caused by the forced blockage of her airways
  • February 2009 - An inquest into Lucy's death begins but the coroner halts it saying he could not rule out the possibility she was unlawfully killed
  • July 2011 - Dunford is arrested at her home in Exeter by Sussex Police and charged with the murder of Lucy.
  • September 2011 - She denies murder
  • May 2012 - Dunford goes on trial at Lewes Crown Court
  • June 2012 - She is cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for seven years. Sussex Police say Harley's death was fully investigated at the time and there are no plans to re-open the case
  • June 2014 - Detectives start investigating the death of the seven-month-old boy in 2003 after Dunford confesses to his murder
  • January 2016 - At Lewes Crown Court, Dunford admits murdering her son after telling her lawyer she did not want to travel to court every day of the trial
  • February 2016 - Dunford changes her plea to not guilty at the Old Bailey
  • March 2016 - She pleads guilty for the second time to murdering Harley, six months before she killed her daughter

Sussex Police said specialists in paediatric pathology and forensic pathology reviewed Harley's death and concluded the evidence, alongside Dunford's verbal and written confessions, was "consistent with suffocation".

Senior Crown Prosecutor Libby Clark said Dunford showed "no remorse" by keeping "her silence over Harvey's death" for more than a decade.

"Lesley Dunford has lied for many years about what happened to her son, before finally confessing the truth.

"This was a terrible crime - her confession clearly stated that she deliberately suffocated her son."

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