SA woman arrested for disabled childrens' deaths 'had not had a decent night's sleep in years'

By admin
24 April 2014

A friend of the family has told media how the mother of the three disabled children found dead in London on Tuesday 'bore the brunt' of the stress of raising them. The South African woman, named as Tania Clarence, was arrested in connection with their deaths.

The 43-year-old was held after the bodies of a girl (4) and twin boys (3) were found by police in an upmarket semi-detached house on Tuesday night.

A friend of the family told Times Live that the children were suffering from genetic disease Spinal Muscular Astrophy (SMA) or 'floppy baby syndrome', which leaves sufferers with little or no control of their movements.

"They [Tania and her husband Gary] did not go and have babies knowing they were giving them a genetic disease," the friend said. "She's been slammed for having three kids with SMA."

"They tried to have a normal family life in the evening, by not having a house full of carers," the friend said. "Tania's borne the brunt [of it]. Gary is a businessman and had to [travel]." "Everything was regulated, everything they ate diarised. I bet Tania had not had a decent night's sleep in a few years." The three children -- named by the Mirror as Ben, Max, and Olivia --  needed feeding tubes. While the couple employed a carer and home help, they did not have round-the-clock assistance. Scotland Yard said Tania was taken to hospital for treatment to minor injuries on Tuesday night before being discharged and arrested.

Mother-of-two Michele Bacchus (38) who lives nearby  told the Mirror two "very, very upset" two female relatives of the Clarence family had stopped by her house to use her toilet on Tuesday night.

The women said they had come from Cobham, Surrey, but one had a South African accent.

"We heard a commotion and we saw lights and four police cars came up and one ambulance and a few other cars," she said.

"We came outside to see what was going on and two other neighbours came out," she said. "A little while later my partner was outside having a cigarette and two women came up and asked if they could use the lavatory. One was fairly young and very, very upset, she could not speak." The family had moved in around a year ago after a major refurbishment, which included a lift for the children. Gary Clarence, and investment banker, is believed to have been in South Africa with the couple’s eldest daughter Taya (8) who is not disabled. The father and daughter are thought to have been staying at a family home in Bela Bela for Taya's birthday. They flew back to London with his mother Anna and sister Derri Phillips last night. Tania Clarence is in custody at a south London police station. Post-mortem examinations are set to be carried out on the children.

'They are a delightful couple, they seemed to be very happy'
Ethel Winstanley, who lives opposite the couple, said she met the family last year and congratulated them on the "transformation" of the house after its refurbishment.

"The man was called Gary, that is all I know. We went across to say 'Congratulations, you have made the street look wonderful'."

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she met the couple a fortnight ago at a barbecue in the neighbourhood.

"They were very friendly. He played golf and he had been playing golf that morning.

"He was going to America for a golf championship, to watch.

"We were out last night dancing and when we came home there were police cars and ambulances outside."

Retired nurse and health visitor Joy Devis (86) said she knew the family and had been in the house "once or twice".

Devis said the news of the deaths was a "huge surprise and shock".

"They are a delightful couple, they seemed to be very happy," she said.

"Their children were super, lovely children. They were very happy, there was a very nice atmosphere there."

Devis said the couple had shown her the lift they installed in their home.

She said the family had help from a nanny and a maid.

Police said they were trying to speak to members of the extended family to find out what happened.

Two teddies, bouquets, pot plants and a child's skipping rope were laid on the driveway of the house by a police officer.

PHOTO: Joe Tidy on Twitter. PHOTO: Joe Tidy on Twitter.

Investec Bank, where Mr Clarence works as the director of investment banking for healthcare, said in a statement that the firm's thoughts are with him.

It said: "Gary Clarence is a valued colleague and has worked with us for many years.

"We do not know the facts at this time but our thoughts are with the Clarence family.

"We are doing all that we can to help Gary and his eldest child and ask that their privacy is respected."

Investec is an international banking and asset management firm which provides financial products and services mainly based in the UK, South Africa, and Australia.

According to the company's website, Mr Clarence leads a team of five corporate broking specialists who advise clients on buying and selling companies, raising money and strategic reviews.

Mr Clarence qualified as a solicitor at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and practised law before moving into the world of business and finance, according to the website.

He completed an MBA at the acclaimed Netherlands Business School, based at Nijenrode University -- the only private university in the Netherlands -- and joined Investec in 1999.

He spent a couple of years working in corporate finance for the firm and was based in their US office for 18 months, before returning to the UK, where he has specialised in the healthcare sector since 2004.

- Kirstin Buick, Marelieze Potgieter & Sapa

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