ANOTHER mother convicted of murdering her babies partly on the evidence of discredited expert Professor Sir Roy Meadow was given the go-ahead to appeal yesterday.
Donna Anthony, 31, had been jailed for life in 1998 after daughter Jordan, 11 months, and son Michael, four months, died a year apart.
An appeal two years later was rejected, but the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has examined the evidence and ordered a fresh hearing. It could the fourth major case in which paediatrician Prof Meadow's testimony over sudden baby deaths has proved unsafe.
Angela Cannings and Sally Clark were freed on appeal and pharmacist Trupti Patel was acquitted at trial after evidence from Prof Meadow was ruled unsatisfactory.
Anthony, from Yeovil, Somerset, had her case given top priority after the quashing of the Cannings conviction.
Mrs Cannings said: "It is fantastic." Referring to Prof Meadow, she added: "How many more cases are there out there?"
The professor's theory suggests one cot death is an accident, two suspicious and three murder.
He also believes mums can suffer from Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, causing them to harm their babies to draw attention to themselves.
Yesterday the CCRC said it had considered a range of issues relating to Anthony, including new expert medical evidence.
Its chairman, Professor Graham Zellick, said the review took time, adding: "We have to assess whether there is a real possibility that the conviction will be quashed.
"That must be carried out painstakingly."
Anthony's lawyer George Hawks said: "I am overjoyed for her but this is a first step." She says both babies were cot-death victims
The best of The Times and The Sunday Times, in real time
|February 03, 2005
Mother jailed for killing two babies seeks her freedom
WOMAN who was sentenced to two life terms for the murders of her baby son and daughter could be free within months after her case was referred to the Court of Appeal yesterday.
Donna Anthony, 31, was convicted of killing her children partly on the basis of expert evidence from Professor Sir Roy Meadow, the controversial paediatrician.
But Sir Roy’s theory of Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy, which suggests that some mothers harm their children to attract sympathy to themselves, has been discredited by a series of high-profile miscarriages of justice.
Sir Roy is to appear before the General Medical Council’s fitness-to-practise panel this year after complaints about his conduct.
Anthony’s case was one of the first to be reopened when the Attorney-General ordered a review of 297 infant death cases, after the quashing of Angela Cannings’s murder convictions in January last year.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission was asked to look at twenty-eight convictions but to date only six of those have been actively considered.
Anthony’s case is the first to be referred to the appeal court. In the course of a year-long review, the commission called new medical witnesses and re-examined circumstantial evidence against her.
Professor Graham Zellick, chairman of the commission, said he had concluded that the case should be referred to the appeal court.
He said: “This was a complex case and the review necessarily took some time.
“We have a statutory duty to perform — to assess whether there is a ‘real possibility’ that the conviction will be quashed and that exercise must be carried out painstakingly.
“It is now for the Court of Appeal to decide whether the convictions are unsafe and if so to quash them.”
Anthony, from Yeovil, Somerset, appealed against her convictions in June 2000 but her case was dismissed.
She has always denied murdering her daughter, who died in February 1996 and her son, who died in March 1997.
A jury convicted her of smothering them on a unanimous guilty verdict.
Jordan had been admitted to hospital four times in six months before her death. A health worker told the trial that Anthony, who is in Bronzefield women’s prison near Heathrow, showed no signs of wanting to bond with her children.
George Hawks, Anthony’s legal representative, said: “My first reaction is one of relief. The review has taken a long time and of course an appeal does not guarantee she will be released but we have cleared the critical first hurdle.”
Munchausen By Proxy