Mother who drowned grammar schoolboy son, 11, in the bath over £290,000 debts is locked up indefinitely
By Arthur Martin
Last updated at 7:21 PM on 02nd October 2009
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Tragic: James Taylor was drowned in the bath by his mother Jennifer in December 2008. She has been detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act
A mother drugged and drowned her 11-year-old son in despair after running up debts of £290,000, a court heard yesterday.
Jennifer Taylor was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act for killing James at their home last December.
Taylor, 45, became severely depressed when her son's absent father stopped sending her money to pay for James's upbringing and private school fees.
She had also accrued debts through credit cards and mortgage arrears and was being harassed by creditors, the court heard.
After killing her son, she spent the next two days lying next to his body before she stabbed herself and took an overdose.
Taylor then called the emergency services and told the operator what she had done.
James was found in the bath with his head submerged in the water at the family home in New Ash Green, near Dartford in Kent.
They found Taylor in the conservatory in bloodstained clothes. She
had stab wounds on her thighs, breasts, wrists and arms and was white, cold and weak, the court heard.
Sentencing her at Maidstone Crown Court, Judge Andrew Patience QC described the case as an 'appalling human tragedy' in which 'the life of a happy, bright, talented boy was wasted'.
The judge said: 'She was socially isolated, felt let down by others, weighed down by debt.
'There is no question but that she adored her son and had tried to do her best for him but had got deeply into debt in her efforts to do so.
'The financial pressures upon her became intense and she developed an intense depressive illness in the months leading up to the killing.'
He said the illness 'led her to the belief that there was no solution to their problems other than to take James's life and kill herself'.
Taylor denied murdering her son at a hearing in March, but later admitted to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. When arrested she said she had wanted the two of them to die so they could 'be in a better place'.
The court heard that both her parents were dead and she had little support. James had never met his father, Mohammed Al-Rafaey, described as a successful Syrian national who lived in Abu Dhabi. Taylor had a brief relationship with him in the 1990s.
James was a pupil at Steephill, a private primary school in Fawkham, Kent, before he joined a nearby grammar school
He initially sent her £1,000 a month in child maintenance and paid for James's private school fees but at the time of the boy's death Taylor had only £360 available in her current account.
She had to twice re-mortgage the house Al-Rafaey had bought for her, had six credit cards and said creditors were constantly ringing her. In May 2008 she begged Mr Al-Rafaey for more money and he agreed to transfer 25,000 U.S. dollars into her account on condition she never asked for any more.
But soon afterwards she asked for a lump sum to cover James's school fees for the next seven years, which he refused.
Taylor, who did not have a job, confided her money woes to her sister and close friends, who became worried about her mental state and insisted she visited her GP who prescribed her antidepressants and sleeping pills.
When computer experts looked at her internet activity in the months before James's death they found searches referring to 'suicide through debt', 'taking a child through suicide' and 'drowning as my heart keeps pounding'. James was a pupil at Wilmington Grammar School near Dartford, after being withdrawn from Steephill, a £2,245-a-term private primary in the Kent village of Fawkham.
Chris Tapp, director of debt charity Credit Action, said he believed society needed to change its attitude towards money to prevent such cases happening again.
He said: 'This is an absolutely tragic case, but what it does indicate is the impact that financial debt and worries can have on individuals.