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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Tania Clarence charged with murder of her three disabled children in England

Floral tributes and toys outside Clarence family home
Floral tributes and toys outside the Clarence family home in New Malden, south-west London. Photograph: Rex Features
by Caroline Davies | The Guardian 

A mother whose three young disabled children were found dead at home was charged with their murders on Thursday.
Tania Clarence, 42, will appear at Wimbledon magistrates court on Friday, the Metropolitan police said.
Postmortem examinations on her three-year-old twins, Ben and Max, and daughter, Olivia, four, who are said by friends to have had a genetic disease that causes fatal respiratory problems, are being carried out at Great Ormond Street hospital.
Their mother was arrested on Tuesday night at the family home in New Malden, south-west London, where the children's bodies were found.
Clarence's husband, Gary, 43, a director at the City bank Investec, who had taken the couple's elder daughter, Taya, to celebrate her eighth birthday in their native South Africa, arrived back in the UK Thursday morning and was said to be in shock.
The three younger children are said to have had spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which causes progressive muscle weakness and loss of movement. Also known as floppy baby syndrome, it leaves children with little or no control of their movements. Life expectancy can be as low as five years.
Lloyd Marshall, a friend who manages the Clarence family's hotel and conference complex in South Africa, said the diagnoses had a massive impact on the family. "It was discovered when they were out here on holiday with Olivia. The girl was just not developing as she should. She couldn't sit up. And that really is when alarm bells started ringing."
He said he believed initial tests were carried out in South Africa but the final diagnosis was made in the UK. "Tania was pregnant at the time. She was told the twins would have a 50/50 chance of getting it as well. And unfortunately they did inherit that gene. It was absolutely devastating for the family. It was terrible, and for the grandparents and [Gary's] brother too. It really did send shockwaves through the whole family."
He said the couple, who moved into their London home less than a year ago having had it extensively renovated and adapted for wheelchairs with lifts and ramps, appeared to be coping.
"I couldn't believe how well. It was really admirable how they had adjusted their lifestyles. The tragic part of that illness is the life expectancy. You are living with a child, or children in their case, that you know aren't going to make it much past another five years. They accepted it. They've got such a lovely warm big family. Everyone rallied round and, yes, they really did seem to be coping exceptionally well with it."
Marshall manages the Birchwood hotel and Tamba conference centre in Johannesburg, a business that Gary Clarence's late father, Brian, and younger brother Kevin built from scratch. He said the banker was with the couple's elder daughter Taya celebrating her birthday with family at their holiday home in Limpopo when the bodies were discovered in London.
"I understand that on Tuesday evening the authorities called Gary and gave him the news," Marshall said. "There was no inkling. They seemed to be coping. He never would have travelled if he thought there was any kind of danger or problem of anything like that."
Marshall said he last saw Tania at her father-in-law's funeral in South Africa in October. "She seemed – obviously aside from the grief of losing Mr Clarence – she seemed herself. She's a lovely lady, and obsessed with the family. Kind. Warm. We spoke at the funeral, and she just gave me the biggest hug afterwards. She was absolutely normal and fine and coping."
Gary Clarence arrived in the UK on Thursday morning with the couple's daughter and accompanied by his mother, Anne, brother Kevin and sister Derri Phillips. A statement issued by the family's lawyers in Cape Town said the Clarences had "undergone and suffered an extreme tragedy" and were under "tremendous pressure and strain". It requested privacy and asked the public and media to "refrain from any speculation until such time as a formal and more detailed statement has been submitted".
Outside the large family home, three paramedics who attended the scene on Tuesday night struggled to control their tears as they laid flowers. One friend and neighbour of the Clarences told the South African website Times Live: "They did not go and have babies knowing they were giving them a genetic disease.
"She's been slammed for having three kids with SMA. They had the one child, their second child, who was young, only a few months old, when she fell pregnant [with the twins]. It was not planned, but they felt they could cope.
"While she was pregnant, the second child was diagnosed as having SMA. The twins were then born premature and they stayed in hospital for a long time. The parents then asked for the twins to be tested for SMA as well. She came home with three kids severely disabled."
The friend continued: "Everything was regulated, everything they ate diarised. I bet Tania had not had a decent night's sleep in a few years."
She said the couple employed a care worker and home help, but did not have round-the-clock assistance. "They tried to have a normal family life in the evening by not having a house full of carers. Tania's borne the brunt. Gary is a businessman and had to [travel]. Everybody who met her could not but be compassionate. Most would think: 'There but for the grace of God go I.'"
The alert was raised when the mother could not be contacted, and police were called in. She was taken to St George's hospital, Tooting, south London, and arrested on suspicion of murder after treatment to minor wounds.
The father, a trained lawyer, studied at Stellenbosch University and in the Netherlands before joining Investec in 1999, two years after the couple married in South Africa. His wife gave up her work as a graphic designer to become a full-time carer.
Related post:  Mother arrested over the deaths of her three disabled children at their home in England

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