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Life for mother who suffocated eight-week-old son to death

Credit: North Wales Police

A mother from Flintshire has been jailed for life after admitting the murder of her eight-week-old son.

Hannah Turtle, 22, changed her plea during the trial and admitted six charges which included murder, three charges of cruelty likely to cause unnecessary suffering and two charges of administering him a poison.

She suffocated him three times in a ten day period and gave him her own anti-depressant medication twice, the court heard.

Mr Justice Clive Lewis, sitting at Mold Crown Court, ordered that she should serve a minimum of 14 years and nine months years before she could apply for parole.

Turtle initially denied the murder of her son but changed her plea during the trial Credit: Andrew Price

The judge said that she suffered from a personality disorder which "reduced her culpability."

He added he was not sure she intended to kill him but to cause him "serious bodily harm." He said she had "breached her position of trust as a mother."

Blood samples taken from James showed that Turtle had given him her prescribed anti-depressant drug, fluoxetine, on two separate occasions.

Turtle admitted she had given him the drug to try and get him to sleep.

James Hughes died on 13 June at Liverpool's Alder Hey Hospital when he was 58 days old Credit: North Wales Police

James’ grandmother Kathleen Hughes said in a victim impact statement read to the court by prosecuting barrister David Elias QC that Turtle was "pure evil."

She was living with her partner Ian Hughes at his mother Kathleen's house at the time of James' death.

Kathleen Hughes, the mother of James' father Ian pictured at Mold Crown Court Credit: Andrew Price

We miss James more than I can put into words.

He was my angel and as he was born just 11 days after my birthday he felt like a late birthday present for me.

Our lives will never be the same again.

I blame myself for so many different reasons. When I am at home, particularly alone, I still think I can hear him cry.

I feel that she is pure evil and there is nothing I can say that does justice to how we are all feeling. She (Turtle) came across as a lovely person and now I believe she was false and manipulative.

I am happy that we are getting justice for James however as a family as would all clearly rather that he was still with us every day.

– Kathleen Hughes, James' grandmother

Turtle had denied murder, three charges of ill-treatment and two charges of administering James with her own anti-depression medication in his milk.

But on Tuesday, on day seven of her trial, she admitted all offences and told how she heard voices in her head telling her that she was a bad mother and did not deserve the baby.

Turtle received six months for cruelty and 12 months for administering a noxious substance, to be served concurrently.

Turtle suffocated James on three occasions and added anti-depressants to his milk Credit: North Wales Police

The court heard that James was resuscitated twice after Ms Turtle restricted his breathing on two occasions on 31 May and 3 June 2016.

Then on 6 June, the prosecution say she murdered him.

Mr Elias said that she put her hand over nose and mouth and stopped him breathing despite the fact that he was struggling against her.

James died after he suffered brain damage from a lack of oxygen and blood, on June 13 at 58 days old.

Each time, she (Turtle) made sure there was no-one to witness her cruelty and stayed silent while doctors tried to find a medical cause for James’ problems.

Turtle tried to claim she had not meant to kill James but evidence put forward by the CPS meant she pleaded guilty during her trial.

Our thoughts are with James’ family.

– Catrin Attwell, Crown Prosecution Service

Flintshire County Council said it referred James' death to the North Wales Safeguarding Children's Board and a review is underway.

We are deeply saddened by this tragic case. Given the circumstances we referred James’ death to the North Wales Safeguarding Children’s Board and are supportive of their decision to undertake a Concise Child Practice Review. Now that the criminal proceedings have been concluded the Review can be finalised. The Review will look at the role agencies played in working with the family and will help to shape future practice and the support we collectively offer. Once finalised, a report and action plan will be presented to the Regional Safeguarding Board and shared with the Welsh Government.

– Neil Ayling, Chief Officer Social Services, Flintshire County Council

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