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New Malden: Disabled Children Deaths

April 24, 2014


Yesterday morning, a story broke that affected me deeply. Twin boys, aged 3, and their sister, 4, were found dead in their home in South London. It was revealed early on that all three children had ‘life limiting’ genetic disabilities.

A woman, 42, was arrested in connection with the incident, on suspicion of murder. Her relationship to the children was not revealed immediately. What was revealed early on was that the family were wealthy- the father is a City banker and the family had help in the house from a nanny and a maid.

The instant emotional reaction of disabled people told us that the woman under arrest was the children’s mother. However, the revelation that the family had house help made some of us wonder whether one of the two house helpers may, just may, have been responsible for the tragedy. And I admit, I personally hoped that the mother was not responsible. Because I have been disabled since birth- and I am lucky enough to have parents who would never do any such thing. So cases like these always affect me deeply.

However, late last night, it was revealed that the woman under arrest was, in fact, the mother of the children.

A reader of Same Difference wrote online that parents killing their disabled children is a ‘common occurrence.’

Sadly, this is not a lie. There have been several cases over the last seven years, since Same Difference started, in both America and England, of parents who have killed their disabled children.

Three particular cases stick in my mind from England. The case of Naomi Hill, whose mother, Joanne, drowned her in a bathtub. Naomi, 4, had mild Cerebral Palsy. Joanne Hill said at the time that she was unable to cope with this disability.

The case of Ajit Singh, a 12 year old autistic boy who was forced to drink bleach because his mother feared he was about to be taken into care. She was reported to have had a personality disorder.

The case of Tom Inglis, whose mother, Frances, injected him with heroin as he slept, because she thought he was suffering after becoming disabled.

Each of these cases affected me deeply, for different reasons. However, in each of these cases, motives for the killings were revealed and, somehow, somewhere, made sense- if it can ever make sense for a parent to kill their own child.

We do not yet know a great deal about the New Malden case. However, on first impressions, it is simply very, very sad. And very little about it appears to make sense.

As I said earlier, the family were wealthy. News reports have revealed that they spent several months, and a fair amount of money, adapting their house to fully meet the needs of the three disabled children.

Neighbours described them as a lovely family and expressed their shock. The family had the support of the two women working in their home, and the mother was a full time carer for the three children.

Saddest of all, although the children’s disability has not been revealed, we know that it was already ‘life limiting.’ This makes it even more difficult to understand why anyone would have killed them too soon.

So, why are these three disabled children dead? Did their mother have mental health problems that no one could have seen coming, like Ajit Singh’s mother, Satpal, was reported to have had?

Did she, like Joanne Hill, feel shame, secretly, that she was afraid to reveal to her family, perhaps because they did not share these feelings? News reports have revealed that the father and the couple’s non-disabled daughter are currently on a holiday. Did she wait to act on her shame until they were out of the way?

Did she think she was ending their suffering, as Frances Inglis did with her son, Tom?

Or is she simply not responsible at all? Could the family simply have been the victims of a break-in or attempted robbery gone tragically wrong? Did she manage to save herself, but not her children?

Unlikely? Far fetched? Yes, readers, I know. But as the disabled child of loving parent carers, a part of me still hopes this is the case. Because, readers, I find the idea of any parent killing their own child simply too painful to think about. And the idea of a parent killing their disabled children is worse still for me- because I believe that real parents should love their children unconditionally.

I know how difficult disability is to handle, especially for non-disabled parents, who know what their disabled children are missing out on. But if, for any reason, this mother was unable to care for her children at home, I have to wonder if she considered putting them into care- or simply separating from the family while she dealt with her own pain, if their father was supportive.

I am sure full details will be revealed in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, readers, I have one final thought to share with you: if many more cases like these are revealed in England, could we go back to a time when all disabled people are taken away from their parents, because Social Services are worried for their safety at home?

I, for one, sincerely hope not. Because the thought makes me shiver in fear and sadness, for what such a policy would do to the lives of the many disabled people who are safe, and deeply loved, at home with their families.

Update: Matthew Smith says the children had Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Update 9am 24/4: Life With Hollywood, who has SMA, expresses many of my feelings on lifelong disability and death beautifully, in relation to this case, here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. jeffrey davies permalink
    April 24, 2014 7:50 am

    A reader of Same Difference wrote online that parents killing their disabled children is a ‘common occurrence.’
    yet our government portray disabled has someone who can work the government show that we don’t like to work ops but mostly they show all that disabled people are now scroungers of the first order until they stop it doesn’t matter how rich if ones got disabled children then the way they portray them isn’t nice yet parents who doesn’t matter whot parent can and will feel failiars and this uncaring government who fail the disabled at every step its difficult enough being disabled without all and sundrie looking at you has if its your fault our bishops who should be ashamed of why they took solong to protect their flocks yet until they change show that disabled have a right to live then its dark outside even when we olimpics atheletes disabled doing wonderous things but excuss me haven’t they now shown they fit to work the atos way and now loss those benefits that allow them to compete welcome to modern Britain jeff3

  2. allan j permalink
    April 24, 2014 4:48 pm

    what a brilliant and well written article, i can understand why people do these things i have a child with a rare condition (and know several others) and at times when behavior has become particularly challenging (combative) i have thoughts (has have others i know) that i shouldnt, i unfortunately had a bad patch of mental issues going from being calm and sane and able to deal with the issues to being totally nuts making oneself become aggressive and quick to react to things that would otherwise wash over me.

    i did take myself away for a week or so but it made little to no difference to my moods and the situation just picked back up where it left off on my return, course it didnt help that no one around me understood my mental issues and where all very good to inflame the situation. i even found doctors to be a waste of space when i go to my GP with a print out of what i thought was wrong (depression or mental breakdown) to get told i dont think mental health will be able to help you. so where does one go on hearing that statement , into an even deeper withdrawal from society.

    not a cat in hells chance of asking the gestapo opps i mean social services for any help, (chances are that you wouldnt get the child back without a fight) has we have seen their interference with others when we have had hospital stays, this leads to a large grapevine over the years.
    its also a bad policy from government that carers only get one pittance no matter how many people are in their care (what does this actually save the system every year)

    conclusion is i guess that until help is given from the powers that be in a more consistent and staple way with guarantees that some busy body i know better social worker isnt going to come up with some rubbish about the child shows signs of abuse , neglect or whatever the flavour of the day is at the time and that the child will be returned when requested.

    anyway think i have waffled enough

  3. April 24, 2014 11:41 pm

    To be honest – it doesn’t appear parents murdering disabled children is that common in the UK, nowadays, compared to the murders of non-disabled children by family caregivers. I found this out while researching the statistics on dog-related fatalities, which are EXTREMELY rare, yet are reported as if they are common. Two women are killed each week by male partners in domestic violence, but these are not reported on, and NSPCC figures show child deaths due to killing per se is high- but not reported in national media as often it seems. In USA stats, you would need a graph 8 feet in height to compare dog related fatalities to deaths by family caregivers, but people believe dog-related fatalities are at an epidemic stage. However, current neoliberal state ideology appears to be treating disabled children as ‘burdens’, and with the Belgian extension of euthanasia to children now, it does look as if there is a danger to disabled children from the state. This case already looks like it’s being used to construct disabled children as ‘burdens’.


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