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article imageOp-Ed: Evil mother Fiona Donnison jailed for 32 years for killing kids

By Alexander Baron     Aug 10, 2011 in Crime
Florida mother Casey Anthony earned worldwide notoriety after being acquitted of charges of murdering her young daughter. In Britain, a woman convicted of murdering her daughter and son is already half-forgotten.
Since her arrest in January last year, Fiona Donnison has received a reasonable amount of press coverage, but her trial and conviction warranted hardly any TV coverage at all. That was certainly surprising, even if one makes allowance for the ongoing banking crisis and the mayhem caused by the recent riots in so many of our major cities.
A recent Google search - “Casey Anthony” murder – returned 8,850,000 hits. A minute later, a search for “Fiona Donnison” returned 32,000, and “Fiona Donnison” murder – a mere 15,200.
There were no cameras in the courtroom, no jeering crowds, there have been no Fiona Donnison voodoo dolls, or any of the other bizarre paraphernalia that have been associated with Casey Anthony, but her crimes are no less heinous for it.
The first the world appears to have heard of Fiona Morag Donnison was Jan. 28 2010 when major newspapers reported a 43-year-old mother, who was named, had been held by police following the discovery of the bodies of a young boy and a young girl, apparently both under five years of age, in a silver Nissan car. The gruesome find was alluded to as a "tragic incident" and the suspect was said to have been taken to Eastbourne District General Hospital with “apparent self-harm injuries” though her condition was said to be stable.
The notorious tabloid the Sun – sister paper to the late and unlamented News Of The World – reported that a mother who confessed to killing her two little children was "spaced out" with self-inflicted cuts to her wrists and arms. She was said to have walked into a police station and confessed to killing the 3-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl respectively, and then to have led horrified officers to the car where they were said to have reeled in horror when they opened the boot (trunk to you, Jose). The bodies were wrapped in black plastic bin liners in separate sports bags, and were said to have been dead for some time; the phrase "I've killed my children" was used. In view of Britain’s contempt of court laws, we can safely assume this report is accurate.
Elise  two  and Harry  three  who were killed by their mother  Fiona Donnison
Elise, two, and Harry, three, who were killed by their mother, Fiona Donnison
Sussex police
Fiona Donnison appears to be an intelligent woman, because she was said to be a former insurance manager. The police sealed off an expensive property less than a hundred metres away where Mrs Donnison had lived with her husband Paul until their marriage failed. It came out later that she had never actually married Paul Donnison but had adopted his name legally, but theirs was a de facto marriage. The house was said to have been put on the market before Christmas (2009); at some point, Mrs Donnison moved to a smaller, rented house at Lightwater, Surrey, apparently on her own, but taking young Harry and Elise with her.
Mrs Donnison appears to have had another child with Paul Donnison, a daughter, Mia, who died in 2004 from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, cot death as it is usually alluded to. She was said also to have had two older sons from a previous marriage. Contemporaneous press reports indicate that she had been a good mother, certainly there was no suggestion that she had abused any of her offspring, or that she was out partying every night like Casey Anthony.
Below the surface though, things were not all happiness and bliss; there had been a number of “domestic incidents” at the family home, which usually means spousal abuse, and which as we all know is men beating up their wives and girlfriends. Most of the time. Some women give as good as they get, and a few are the source of the violence; that appears to have been the case here. According to the same notorious tabloid, she had been quizzed after allegedly launching violent attacks on her husband – plural. She was also said to have self-harmed, and there is a suggestion that she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Certainly, a woman who repeatedly assaults her husband and cuts herself (or whatever) is in serious need of some sort of treatment. An anonymous source made an even more serious allegation.
After appearing before Lewes magistrates, she was transferred to a psychiatric unit. In March this year, the Evening Standard reported that Donnison had pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder. Post mortem (autopsy) examinations revealed that 3 year old Harry and 2 year old Elise had probably died from asphyxiation.
When her trial opened last month, more details were forthcoming. Ten days before she murdered her children, she was said to have told Paul Donnison’s new lover: if he's sleeping with you, he will never see the kids. That is the sort of comment many an embittered former spouse or lover would make under many circumstances, but in hindsight it takes on a deeper, more sinister meaning.
Donnison was said by examining psychiatrists to have a narcissistic personality, an inflated sense of her own importance and entitlement. What is that supposed to mean?
The de facto marriage of Paul Donnison and the accused had ended for good in September 2009 when she walked out of the family home taking Harry and Elise with her. Even so, it was he who had attempted reconciliation, but to no avail.
In January last year, she suffocated her young son and daughter, then drove ninety miles to Paul Donnison’s home, and this is where an already tragic case becomes truly shocking. According to the prosecution, she had armed herself with two kitchen knives with which to murder him and then blame him for the deaths. She had already falsely accused him of assaulting her. Fortunately for him, he was not at home because he was staying at his lover’s house. She appears then to have cut her wrists and swallowed a number of sleeping tablets in a half-hearted suicide attempt, or perhaps to work her ticket to a psychiatric hospital rather than a prison before walking into a police station. She also claimed to have no memory at all of the events that led to the double murder. Donnison’s defence team advised her not to testify; she took that advice, and unlike in the trial of Casey Anthony – and all cases tried in American criminal courts – the jurors were told they were permitted to draw adverse inferences from her silence. Whether or not they did, they did not buy her story.
After handing down the mandatory life sentence, Mr Justice Nicol permitted disclosure of something the jury was not allowed to hear; prosecutors had also wanted to try Donnison for the murder of baby Mia, but another judge at a pre-trial hearing had ruled against this. Even allowing for this woman’s history, it does seem unlikely that this was anything but a natural if tragic death, but the murder of Harry and Elise was clearly an act of gross callousness directed at Paul Donnison.
Describing the murders as "deliberate and wicked acts", the judge set her tariff at 32 years. After the trial, Paul Donnison paid tribute to his young son and daughter.
These types of murders are fortunately extremely rare, but they are by no means unknown. Perhaps the most notorious is the case of Susan Smith, who drowned her two young sons in the back of her car; initially she claimed to have been the victim of a carjacking.
That being said, probably the worst case is the little known one of John Lambert who strangled his three young daughters to get back at his wife. His defence counsel was able to convince the jury that he was “off his head” when he did it; in November 1984, they convicted him of manslaughter, and the judge sentenced him to a mere six years’ imprisonment.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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