UK & World News

  • 24 April 2014, 17:16

Arrested Mum 'Struggled With Children's Care'

A mother arrested on suspicion of murdering her three disabled children centred her life on them but often had to cope alone, according to a family friend.

Tania Clarence, 42, was taken into custody after police found the bodies of the children at her home in New Malden, south London, on Tuesday night.

The children - a four-year-old girl and twin three-year-old boys - are understood to have had spinal muscular atrophy.

The life-limiting genetic condition is also known as floppy baby syndrome and leaves children with little or no control of their movement.

Gary Clarence, the children's father, was in the family's native South Africa with the couple's eight-year-old daughter when he heard the news.

A family friend, who did not want to be named, told South Africa's Times Live website that the couple lived a hectic, regimented life based around caring for their children.

"Everything was regulated, everything they ate diarised. I bet Tania had not had a decent night's sleep in a few years."

Despite having help to look after the children, the friend said the family still struggled.

"They tried to have a normal family life in the evening, by not having a house full of carers. Tania's borne the brunt [of it]. 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 friend told 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."

Mrs Clarence was initially taken to hospital with minor injuries and later discharged.

Chief Superintendent Glenn Tunstall told a news conference on Wednesday afternoon officers were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.

He said specialist detectives were providing support to the family.

Sky reporter Joe Tidy said the couple moved into the 1.2m house with their four children around six months ago, once the property had been redeveloped with mobility equipment, including a lift.

Mr Clarence works as a director at Investec bank - his mother and sister are understood to have flown to the UK to support him.

A neighbour of the family, retired nurse Joy Devis, 86, said she had been in the house "once or twice" and described the Clarences as a "delightful couple".

Post-mortem examinations of the three children will be held this afternoon at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

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