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By KARON KELLYgazette.email@example.com
16:16 16:22 Monday 23 October 2006
A MOTHER who claimed her home had been attacked by masked raiders to hide the fact she’d killed her own baby today walked free from court.
Danielle Wails set a fire in her living room and placed her four-month-old son Alexander Lee Gallon near the heart of the blaze.Wails escaped the house relatively unhurt, but tiny Alexander died from his horrific injuries. Wails told investigators two men had attacked her and her child before starting the blaze at her home. But investigations revealed the killing was the climax to a campaign of trying to win back the affections of the baby’s father Robert Gallon, who she had split up a with a few weeks before.
Judge David Hodson branded her attempt cover up what she had done as “ludicrous”. But he added: “Courts do take a special approach to this particular offence.” Seldom has a custodial sentence for infanticide been confirmed by the Court of Appeal. “The recognised approach now is that the court should give such support as it can to the defendant in cases such as this.”Wails, who has served the equivalent of a two-and-a-half year sentence behind bars, was sentenced to a community order for three years.
But the baby’s father, Robert Gallon, slammed the sentence. “There is no justice in it,” he said. “You would get punished more for doing a burglary, she has killed someone and walked free. She should have got life.” She could easily have escaped from that house and saved Alexander.” She has got away with killing my baby.”
Newcastle Crown Court heard how Wails had bombarded her ex with texts and calls, and staged faked illnesses and emergencies in a bid to get him to come back to her.The tragedy unfolded when, on August 28 last year, Wails made a 999 call asking for the police and the fire brigade, claiming her home had been under attack. Prosecutor Paul Sloan QC said: “During the course of that telephone call, she reported a fire at her address.” She claimed she had been attacked and tied up.” She said her baby son was on the other side of the living room and she could not reach him because of the heat and smoke.”The recording of that call makes particularly harrowing listening, Alexander’s background shrieks being all too audible.”
The court heard when the emergency services arrived at the 21-year-old’s home in Links Road, Cowgate, Newcastle, the door was broken down and a frantic search began for the baby.Wails, meanwhile was out of the house lying on the ground with telephone wire, which she claimed the intruders had used to tie her up, wrapped around her right wrist.Mr Sloan QC told the court: “She was shouting that her baby was in the house, saying to neighbours she was attacked.”She said two males entered her house and she had been struck, knocked out and when she awoke the house was in flames.”
She said she had phoned 999 using her tongue to press the buttons then made her way to the front door to shout for help.”Firefighters fought their way through intense black smoke in a bid to find the tot, who was eventually found on the floor between the sofa and the patio door.Mr Sloan said: “The baby has been placed in close vicinity to but on the far side of the seat of the fire.”
The tot was taken to hospital but pronounced dead shortly after arrival.Wails suffered no burns or injury from the smoke, but had wounds to her face which she told police were caused by the raiders.She said Alexander had been lying on the sofa when the intruders came in through the unlocked front door.She claimed one of her attackers had kicked the baby after putting him on the floor while the other knocked her unconscious with a kick to the face.
But within hours, investigators were suspicious of her bizarre story, particularly as her version of events meant the attackers must have locked the door after them then miraculously placed the only key for the house backinside.Wails was arrested on suspicion of murder on August 31.She told police she and the baby’s father Robert Gallon had met in mid 2004 and she became pregnant quite soon after.She had considered ending the pregnancy, but the court heard how Mr Gallon persuaded her against termination.Alexander was born in April 2005, and it soon became clear she was not coping with the pressures of becoming a new mum. On May 19, last year, she complained to her GP of feeling unable to cope and was given medication for post natal depression.
She was referred to the perinatal mental health team and a health visitor noted her score of 21 on the Edinburgh Post Natal Depression scale as being “worryingly high”. Wails was referred to social services but avoided meetings with development workers by claiming the system was unhelpful or making elaborate excuses not to go.On the day of the tragedy she sent Mr Gallon 40 text messages and calls within a two-and-a-half hour period. Wails denied murder and prosecutors accepted her guilty plea to infanticide at an earlier hearing.
Defence barrister Brian Forster QC said specialists agree she was suffering an abnormality of mind at the time she took her baby’s life.Mr Forster added: “She will have to live with the consequences of her actions for all time.”Judge Hodson sentenced Wails to a community order for three years with three years supervision and the requirement to live at an approved hostel.Wails was banned from ever working with children. The judge told her: “You will carry with you and have to live with for all time the most dreadful thing that you did, the killing of your own child.”