Smothered girl's mother was 'suicidal' before her death

Image caption, Bethany Kennerley was found dead in Ms Caudwell's home on 3 October last year

A mother accused of suffocating her daughter with a toy had been suicidal before her death, a court has heard.

Mother-of-four Helen Caudwell is alleged to have killed three-year-old Bethany by smothering her with a Piglet soft toy in October last year.

Manchester Crown Court was told she had considered driving off a motorway bridge a few weeks before her daughter died.

The 42-year-old, of Stockport, denies murder.

Shortly after Bethany's death, Ms Caudwell tried to slash her wrists. Then, it emerged in court, just a week after her arrest she tried to strangle herself with a ligature of bandages while she was in prison.

Bethany was found dead on the morning of 3 October in a bedroom of Ms Caudwell's flat in Redwood Close, Cheadle Heath.

'Two spirits'

Her Piglet toy was lying next to her. Her saliva and blood were both found on the toy.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr John McKenna, who examined the supermarket worker in custody following her arrest, gave evidence to the court.

Paul Reid QC, defending, asked for his conclusions.

Dr McKenna replied: "My opinion was that Helen Caudwell was suffering from a clinically significant depressive disorder.

"It appears that there is a family history which suggests a depressive disorder.

"An immediate relative had tried to commit suicide on a number of occasions and another had suffered long-term depression.

"There is a recognised tendency for the risk of depression to be increased when there would be such a history in family members."

The court heard that Ms Caudwell was first prescribed Prozac in 1994 for post-natal depression.

She was given further anti-depressants on and off between November 2001 and January 2009.

Ms Caudwell had told the doctor that on the day of Bethany's death she awoke to find her foot was cold, one side of her face was blue and she was not breathing.

"She then told me 'I needed to go where she had gone. There were two lights on the wall like two spirits had come to fetch her'," Dr McKenna said.

"She had no recollection of suffocating her daughter. She said she did not believe she was responsible for her daughter's death as she loved her too much."

Double life

Ms Caudwell has elected not to give evidence in her defence.

It is alleged that her colleagues at Morrisons rushed round to her house after the defendant confessed to the murder in a phone call.

Ms Caudwell was said to have told family and friends she was scared of losing custody of her daughter.

Prosecutors allege she was leading a double life after telling both her husband and a man she was having an affair with that they were the girl's father.

Her lover was in fact the real father.

Two days before Bethany died she was said to have told her husband, Miles Kennerley, whom she was divorcing at the time, that he could no longer see her.

The trial continues.

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