PA/Huffington Post UK
A woman killed her two young children while they slept in a Spanish hotel room and spent the night with their bodies, a jury has heard.
Lianne Smith, 45, has admitted suffocating daughter Rebecca Smith, five, and 11-month-old son Daniel with a plastic bag at the Miramar Hotel in Lloret de Mar on the Costa Brava in May 2010.
She went on trial today at the Provincial Court in Girona, north-east Spain, so a jury can determine whether she is criminally responsible for the children’s deaths.
Her defence is seeking an acquittal, claiming she was in a state of “psychiatric disturbance” and suffering insurmountable fear when the tragedy happened. If found guilty, she faces a total of 38 years in prison.
The killings took place shortly after her partner, Martin Smith, was arrested in Barcelona by Spanish police acting on a European Arrest Warrant. He was deported to the UK.
The family had been living in Spain since 2007 after fleeing Lichfield, Staffordshire, when Mr Smith was accused of sexually abusing a young girl.
Victor Pillado Quintas, prosecuting, said in his opening statement: “At around 9pm on May 17 2010, the defendant was in room 101 (at the Miramar Hotel) with her two children.
“Knowing full well that their young age and the surprising nature of her behaviour would not allow them to react, more so since they were asleep, and taking advantage of the trust the children would have had in their mother, she took her son in her arms and put a bag over his head, closing it around his neck. She did not stop tightening the bag until she had killed him.
Immediately she did the same to the five-year-old, closing the same bag around her neck and tightening it until she killed her daughter. After ending the lives of her children she spent the night with their lifeless bodies.”
The prosecutor said that at 1.30pm the following day, Smith went to the Miramar’s reception and asked for the police and an ambulance to be called. She immediately confessed to the police and the judicial authorities that she had ended the children’s lives.
Wearing a dark top, white trousers and sandals, Smith looked haunted and cried today as the court heard the charges she faces.
Pillado Quintas told the jury of three women and eight men: “You will have to decide whether Lianne Smith knew that she was killing her children and whether she knew it was wrong, or whether she was suffering a mental disease at the time.
“The prosecution says she was not suffering a mental disease. You will also have to decide whether she was suffering insurmountable fear when she killed her children.
“To decide on this you will hear evidence from psychiatric experts and the defendant herself, but you will also have to use your common sense. Would a person who is afraid of someone hurting her children kill those children? Is this logical?”
In December 2010, Martin Smith was found guilty at Manchester Crown Court of 11 specimen charges of rape, attempted rape, indecency with a child and indecent assault.
It later emerged that the complainant was Sarah Richardson, Lianne Smith’s older daughter by another man, after she waived the right to anonymity granted to victims of sex crimes.
The court heard on Monday that it is not clear who Rebecca and Daniel’s father was.
Last January, Martin Smith was found hanged in his cell at Strangeways Prison in Manchester.
Jenifer Lahoz Abos, for the defence, told the jury today that Smith had a “total emotional dependence” on her partner and was left in a state of psychosis after he was arrested on 7 May 2010.
She said: “The defendant came to Spain fleeing the British judicial authorities and social services because her husband Martin was accused of sexually abusing another daughter she had from an earlier marriage, which they considered a totally false accusation.
“In Barcelona, Lianne not only took care of her children but was also the only member of the family who worked. She worked as an English teacher and was the family’s only breadwinner.”
Lahoz Abos said that after Martin’s arrest, Smith felt “persecuted, hounded and threatened”.
She said: “She tried to carry on in this state of psychological instability, going back to work and hiring a girl to look after the children.
“But on May 15 she went out shopping early in the morning with both the children and saw two people in a car who she later saw walking down the street. She felt observed and threatened and made a clean break with reality and thought she was being chased by the two people, who she thought could be members of the British social services.
“She thought they were going to come and take her children away and give them to other families in adoption, so she started to run when someone, who may have been a journalist, asked her if she was the woman with two children whose husband had been arrested.
“At this moment she entered a state of panic and lost contact with reality, interpreting events in a totally distorted manner, with delirious beliefs that she was in danger and there was a serious threat to her life and that of her children.”