Parents Who Kill--Shocking True Stories of the World's Most Evil Parents

BOOK: Parents Who Kill--Shocking True Stories of the World's Most Evil Parents
3.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

For Ian

1957 – 2009

’m indebted to Dr Marc Feldman for answering my questions about mothers who deliberately harm their children, sometimes fatally, in order to gain attention. Dr Feldman is a clinical professor of psychiatry at The University of Alabama and an international expert in Munchausen’s syndrome and Munchausen’s By Proxy. He’s also a respected author whose latest book is the revealing
Playing Sick.

I’m also grateful to crime scene investigator Paul Millen for explaining gun residue to me, an intriguing aspect of the Neil Entwistle case. Paul has over 30 years’ experience in the management and scientific investigation of crime and his work has been commended by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He was responsible for the development of the prestigious diploma in Crime Scene Investigation awarded by the Forensic Science Society, and went on to be elected the Society’s vice president. He is author of the book
Crime Scene Investigator.

I’d similarly like to thank Jerzy Morkis, editor of the Scottish newspaper
East Fife Mail,
for keeping me up to date with details of the Robert Thomson case and for answering my questions. Thomson’s frenzied murder of his children, followed by an attempted suicide, received far more coverage in his native Scotland than it did in the English press.

Last, but certainly not least, I’m delighted that Gregg Olsen, one of America’s foremost true crime authors, granted me an interview. Gregg visited Tanya Reid in prison following her convictions for child abuse and murder and wrote a revealing book,
Cruel Deception,
about this particularly troubling case.

sk a member of the public to describe a murderous mother and they will usually describe a teenage girl who hides her pregnancy from her parents, gives birth alone in her bedroom and leaves the infant to die of exposure in a nearby park. But, in reality, mothers also kill in their twenties, thirties and forties and their reasons for killing their newborn to teenage children are equally diverse. Within these pages you’ll find women who murdered their offspring for the insurance money, to garner attention or in order to enjoy a new romance. A few killed their children (and sometimes committed suicide immediately afterwards) whilst in the throes of post-natal depression, whilst others believed that their hapless progeny were possessed.

Some of the fathers who killed were also religious and believed that they were sending their brood to a better place, though in other cases the motive was financial. Chillingly, the most common reason was to get revenge on the children’s mother because she had left them or was planning to leave. In
other instances, the motive was merciful, with their
children facing an agonising and protracted death.

There’s also a section on couples who killed their children together, in the belief that they were ridding them of demonic possession or whilst physically disciplining them. Others were guilty of gross medical neglect.

In previous books, I’ve split British and American killers into distinct sections because their modus operandi were different – for example, British sadists usually kill close to home whilst American sadists often transport their victims for hundreds of miles, assaulting them repeatedly en route. But a revenge father who kills in Britain and a revenge father who kills in the states are amazingly similar, threatening their exes and even phoning them whilst in the act of murdering the children. Similarly, there was little distinction between a neglectful mother in the UK or the US and cases from France and Australia showed the same character traits. As a result, I’ve grouped these killers in themed chapters according to their reasons for the murder or murders rather than by country of origin.

The fourth part of the book examines ways of preventing some of these murders and is followed by an appendix of useful addresses.

hirty infants a year are killed in Britain, mostly by their mothers. These women often conceal their pregnancies and give birth alone in their bedrooms or in semi-public settings such as a college bathroom or a hotel.

They do so for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the baby is the result of an affair which they’ve had whilst their husband was working away from home, and to admit to the pregnancy will end the marriage. In other instances, the girl is single and from a religious family which opposes pre-marital sex. Women with a previous history of mental illness are more likely to panic when they find out that they are expecting an unplanned and unwanted baby, as are those who are already under stress from existing life events.

The stereotype is of a teenage – or even younger – girl who has little understanding of biology, but many mothers who kill their children at birth are in their late teens or early twenties. They tend to be passive individuals with a desperate need to appear perfect to their parents and friends.

Though impoverished, uneducated girls are the most likely to give birth in secret and dispose of their babies immediately afterwards, it’s not unusual for high school pupils and university students to do likewise, preferring the extended pain of a medication-free birth to admitting the impending arrival of an illegitimate child.

If a mother murders her baby in its first 24 hours, the crime is neonaticide. In reality, most of these women snuff out the baby’s life – usually by strangulation or suffocation – when it gives its first cry. Others abandon the infant in a dustbin or under a bush in the park so that it dies of exposure. In America, such infants are often disposed of down the garbage chute. Some American prosecutors make no allowance for the new mother’s state of mind, so girls who kill their newborns can be given lengthy sentences for murder in the US.

The Infanticide Act, passed in Britain in 1922, recognises that childbirth and lactation can cause enormous hormonal shifts which result in temporary mental illness and can cause a mother to kill her baby. (The act isn’t applicable in Scotland, but Scottish judges tend to sentence along similar compassionate lines.) As such, women who commit neonaticide in the United Kingdom face, at worst, the charge of manslaughter.

The case which follows, that of British mother Caroline Beale, made headlines throughout the world when she secretly gave birth during a holiday in the United States and was caught attempting to take her dead baby back into Britain. The American legal system demanded a 25-year sentence whilst British authorities pleaded for clemency given her obvious fragility and confused state of mind.


Unlike many women who are charged with neonaticide, Caroline – born in June 1964 – was from a good, loving family.
She left school at 16 and went to college where she did a course in community care. Attractive and well liked, she went on to work in health administration and, at 22, began dating Paul Faraway, the son of a teacher and a judge’s clerk, who made sporting rifles for a gunsmith. The following year they set up home together in Essex and got engaged.

Throughout the rest of the 1980s and the early 1990s, the couple’s lives were comparatively uncomplicated. But, in the summer of 1993, Caroline’s best friend Alison had a recurrence of the cancer which she’d been treated for in 1991. She began to feel tired all the time and didn’t respond to chemotherapy. Later, surgeons had to remove her ovaries.

In March 1994, Caroline realised that she was pregnant (she’d conceived in January) but didn’t tell anyone and tried to put it to the back of her mind. She knew that Alison had wanted children but could no longer have them, so perhaps on a subconscious level she didn’t want to upset her ailing friend. She continued to visit Alison in hospital, though she sometimes had to cut the visits short as she was deeply distraught at how badly illness had ravaged her.

Caroline could see that her friend wasn’t going to get better – but Alison didn’t realise this and still made plans for the future. But by May 1994, she was so ill that she was moved to a hospice, where she lost her sight. Caroline continued to visit her friend, though it was harrowing to see the previously vibrant clothes designer lying motionless and unable to recognise anyone. The following month, Alison died aged 31.

Caroline was overwhelmed by the death, and had crying jags which lasted for hours at a time. This went on for week after week. She began to sleep for 11 hours at a stretch, a common symptom of clinical depression. Her employers were so concerned that they offered her compassionate leave.

Her boyfriend arranged for her to accompany him and his
brothers on holiday to America, but in the weeks leading up to the trip Caroline continued to behave oddly, sleeping for long periods, eating more than usual and looking despondent. No one knew that by now she was almost nine months pregnant as she wore layers of baggy clothes. She later said that she’d had a dream in which Alison said that she was lonely and wanted the baby for company, and this convinced Caroline that the baby would be born dead. Her relationship with Paul was going through a difficult period and they had stopped having sex so she was able to hide the fact that her previously flat stomach was now heavy and round.


On their arrival in New York on 14 September, Caroline was again tired and moody. Paul’s brothers kept asking her what was wrong but she repeatedly insisted that she was fine and they understandably assumed that she was still recovering from her bereavement. She spent much of their sightseeing visits staring unfocusedly into the distance and was always keen to return to their Manhattan hotel. Paul told her that it was time she got over Alison’s death, but when she remained unenthusiastic about touring the city, he decided to give her some space and increasingly went out, leaving her watching TV in their room.

At 5pm on 22 September, Caroline went into labour after encouraging the men to go out for the evening. She spent the next six hours in agony, then gave birth in the bath where, at one stage, she possibly passed out. She cut the cord and left the baby floating in the water whilst she went to the loo and expelled the afterbirth. She later said that the baby wasn’t breathing so she put it into a plastic bag, placed the package in a duffle bag and put it next to her bed. The following morning she toured New York City with her boyfriend and
his brothers and carried the bag containing the dead baby the entire time.

That afternoon, the men went for a final drink at JFK airport in New York before their return flight, whilst Caroline went to the loo. A security guard who was scanning the terminal for anything suspicious saw her hanging around and noticed that she looked frightened and possibly pregnant. He wondered if she was smuggling something under her coat. He conferred with a female officer, who thought that Caroline had a money bag strapped to her stomach and told her to remove it and put it through the metal detector. But the English tourist refused and tried to return to the ladies room.

When security staff persisted, she admitted that the bag strapped to her stomach contained a baby and she said that she didn’t want her friends to see.

Staff took her into a side room, opened the bag and saw the corpse of a 7.5lb baby girl. By now Caroline was shaking uncontrollably and begged them not to tell her boyfriend. (The prosecution would later speculate that it was not his baby.) She became even more distressed when they handcuffed her so was detained as an Emotionally Disturbed Person and taken to Queens General Hospital where detectives handcuffed her to the bed.

Informed of what had transpired by detectives, Paul and his brothers were understandably stunned. Paul tried to contact Caroline but apparently she said that she didn’t want to see him. Back in England, he went into shock. He began writing to Caroline on a weekly basis and they would later talk on the phone. Her parents were also very supportive, working tirelessly to get her the best legal help.

Meanwhile, zealous prosecutors decided that Caroline Beale should be charged with second degree murder and she was sent to Riker’s Island, one of America’s toughest jails. It
was the last place that a young woman in the throes of a nervous breakdown deserved to be, though her vulnerability was recognised and she was put on suicide watch.

Visitors found that she was desperately thin with a ghostly complexion. She shook constantly and cried so much that she often became incoherent. Paul became ill with glandular fever and their already-failing long distance relationship broke down.

After eight months Caroline was let out on bail but forbidden to leave America before her trial, a daunting edict for a woman who was desperate to return to her parents. She stayed with some of her American supporters but they noted that she was hoarding her anti-depressants and feared that she would commit suicide.


Meanwhile, talks were going on behind the scenes between the defence and the prosecution. The latter said that the baby had been born alive because air had been found in her lungs. They said that the infant had taken a few breaths before being suffocated and speculated that the motive was so that Paul wouldn’t find out about the pregnancy as she might have been impregnated by another man. (Paul had chosen not to give a blood sample, as was his right, so they couldn’t determine who the father was.)

The defence noted that, if Caroline had dumped the body in New York, it would never have been traced to her. Instead, she’d carried it around all day then attempted to board a plane back to England still carrying the corpse, the actions of a woman who was mentally ill. And a professor of pathology found that the baby suffered none of the marks consistent with the haemorrhages which are sometimes seen after suffocation.

Several experts believed that the baby girl had died at birth,
possibly being strangled by the umbilical cord, and that air had been artificially introduced into her lungs when Caroline picked her up.

An empathic American journalist described her as a ‘
unsophisticated, tragic figure,’ a viewpoint which was increasingly shared in Britain and throughout the states as her story made headline news.

By now Caroline had been in America for 18 months and was desperately missing her family and terrified of being sent back to jail. She reluctantly agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter – a crime that she did not believe that she had committed – in exchange for her return to Britain and psychiatric help. If she’d gone to trial and been found guilty, she could have been jailed for up to 25 years.

After the plea bargain, her father said what many people were thinking: ‘I personally think that this has been a cruel and medieval prosecution that does no credit to a civilised society.’ In turn, the judge retorted ‘any law that grants a blanket exemption from prosecution or punishment for those people who kill their children when their children are under one year of age is a law which is primitive and uncivilised.’

Back home at last, Caroline returned to work, writing supportive letters to several of the women who supported her in Rikers. Her baby, whom she named Olivia, was cremated in the states and her ashes were returned to England.

Caroline’s experiences in the states were harrowing – but, two years after her imprisonment, another mentally ill tell-no-one mother in Britain would be treated very differently…


Though her father was a millionaire and she benefited from private schooling in England, Emma had her share of childhood misery. Her Swedish-born mother was an
alcoholic and her father was frequently away on business trips. It was his second marriage and he would go on to marry for a third time.

By the age of 13, Emma was clinically depressed. She was outwardly obedient and passive but deeply disturbed. After leaving school, she went to Edinburgh University to study English and drama, but dropped out after a year and tried to commit suicide. Though she recovered physically and, for a time, mentally (most mental illness is episodic, as the sufferer lacks the strategies to cope with stressful life events) she didn’t return to complete her course.

In 1994 when she was 19, she became pregnant by her student boyfriend but concealed the pregnancy. He only became aware of the baby after she gave birth in a London hospital. Both families agreed that the best thing was to give the baby up for adoption, but Emma was deeply distressed by this and spent hours preparing a ‘life book’ for the infant that she was giving up.

The following year she became pregnant again. Her boyfriend, who was still a student, begged her to have an abortion and she told him that she had done so. They split up and her mental health deteriorated markedly. She secretly continued the pregnancy, hiding it from staff at the florists where she worked.

In May 1996, she gave birth to a baby boy whilst alone in the bathroom of her Kensington flat. She took him into the lounge and attempted to breast feed him, but couldn’t. She’d later explain that he was coughing and didn’t look well. She fell asleep and awoke the following day with the baby, still breathing, beside her. She phoned her work and said that she couldn’t come in, but didn’t tell them why. Bleeding heavily and again suicidal, she smothered the baby with a flannel, a pillow and clothes.

Emma went to work the following day, then phoned her older brother Kris and said that she wanted to kill herself. He immediately drove to her flat to collect her and brought her back with him to his home in Kent. He had no inkling that the plastic bag she was clutching contained the corpse of her infant son. The following day she returned home and put the tiny body in her freezer then continued her normal life.

A few weeks later, Emma’s brother found the frozen cadaver and the young woman made a full confession to the police, saying ‘I was afraid. I didn’t want people to know that I was pregnant. I didn’t know what to do.’ They could see that she was mentally disturbed and were sympathetic. She also showed genuine remorse.

BOOK: Parents Who Kill--Shocking True Stories of the World's Most Evil Parents
3.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

B005HF54UE EBOK by Vlautin, Willy
One More Kiss by Katherine Garbera
Forget to Remember by Alan Cook
Going Organic Can Kill You by McLaughlin, Staci
The Empty Frame by Ann Pilling
Naked Came the Stranger by Penelope Ashe, Mike McGrady
Fire Mage by John Forrester
Sweet Song by Terry Persun
A Calculated Life by Anne Charnock
Heather Graham by The Kings Pleasure