Mother confesses to smothering son

A “guilt-ridden” mother who confessed to murdering her baby son while in prison for killing her young daughter has been jailed for life in England.

Lesley Dunford, 37, smothered seven-month-old Harley Dunford in his cot on August 27, 2003, six months before three-year-old Lucy died in similar circumstances. 

However, Harley’s death was not treated as suspicious until Dunford admitted the killing to prison staff in 2014 while serving seven years for the manslaughter of her daughter, the Old Bailey heard.

Jailing the mother of three for a minimum of 13 years, Mr Justice Baker said: “The reality is, had you not confessed to killing Harley whilst in custody, it is highly likely there would not have been a police investigation into his death and you would not have faced prosecution for murder.”

Dunford had pleaded guilty to the murder of Harley at the three-bedroom home she shared with her husband Wayne in Camber, near Hastings, East Sussex.

Prosecutor Philippa McAtasney QC said Dunford was only charged after making a series of confessions to staff at Drake Hall women’s prison in Staffordshire in June 2014.

Before then, Harley’s death had been put down to staphylococcal pneumonia and no action was taken.

When Lucy died in “very similar circumstances” on February 2, 2004, the defendant turned to her local vicar and said: “It’s happened again, it’s happened again.”

At the time of both killings, Mr Dunford, 58, had been out of the house at work, the court heard.

It was not until a coroner expressed his concern at Lucy’s 2009 inquest that the decision not to prosecute over her death was reconsidered.

The medical evidence was reviewed and Lucy was found to have died from asphyxiation, the court heard.

In June 2012, Dunford was jailed for seven years after being found guilty of Lucy’s manslaughter at Lewes Crown Court.

It was while she was serving her sentence that she admitted involvement in both deaths to prison staff, saying she was “riddled with guilt”.

She told officers that she had been having “flashbacks and nightmares” about what she had done.

In a written confession, she stated: “I remember the day very clearly, the time I put Harley back to bed at 9am, after I had given him his breakfast. I was settling him down in his cot. I put him on his tummy and put his dummy in.

“But then something clicked in my head and I went back into the room walked over to his cot and pushed his face into the mattress until he stopped breathing. And then I put his head to the side and noticed there was blood and foam coming out of his nose. That’s when I knew I had hurt him and I don’t know why I had done it.”


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