She then went to the basement of the family home in Stoke, Nelson, and took her own life, an inquest was told yesterday.

The Nelson Coroner’s Court heard that Mrs Perkin had been depressed after separating from her husband, Patrick, and losing her mother to cancer. She had been prescribed anti-depressant medication and sleeping pills.

Coroner Ian Smith ruled that Alice, aged 8, Maria, 6, and Cherie, 23 months, died of wilful murder by asphyxiation and suffocation in conjunction with being given a toxic dosage of sleeping pills.

He concluded that Mrs Perkin’s death was self-inflicted and caused by asphyxiation. The way she died was suppressed.

Detective Constable Michael Breen told the court that on the Tuesday before the deaths on Saturday, September 30, Mrs Perkin attended a Family Court hearing to determine her husband’s access rights to his children.

The court’s decision on the case, which was released on the Friday, was yesterday suppressed.

Detective Constable Breen said Mrs Perkin was angry and upset about the court’s decision.

She had dinner with her father and after he left Mrs Perkin gave each of her daughters seven sleeping pills crushed in a glass of water, put them to bed and smothered them with their pillows.

She left her will and a note to her father apologising for her actions, as well as shopping bags of clothes and toys addressed to family and friends.

Outfits and brooches for each of the girls were laid out on their beds.

Mrs Perkin’s doctor of 13 years, Alexander Moreland, told the court that there was no way of predicting her actions.

He said he had discussed suicide with Mrs Perkin in the weeks leading up to the deaths and she had told him she could never hurt her children.

Mr Smith said he had no recommendation to make on the case, which he described as “an extremely tragic event that had affected so many lives.”