LONDON, Oct 23 (Reuters) A mother who set fire to her home, killing her four-month-old baby, was sentenced to a three-year community order instead of jail by a judge today after concern was expressed about her mental health.
Danielle Wails had denied murdering her son Alexander Gallon, but had admitted infanticide at Newcastle Crown Court earlier this month.
The court was told she had been suffering from severe post-natal depression at the time of the fire in August last year.
The 22-year-old had initially told police she had been attacked by masked intruders who had assaulted her and tied her up. She claimed she had passed out and that when she regained consciousness her home was on fire. She said she managed to call the emergency services by using her tongue to dial.
Fire officers had to break through a locked door and rescue Wails, who left without her baby. When officers went back into the property to bring out the baby, they found he was already dead from smoke inhalation and burns.
Although police launched a murder hunt to catch the ''masked intruders'' senior officers had misgivings about Wails' story.
''From the outset we had reservations about Danielle's claims about two masked men beating her up and causing her baby's death,'' said Detective Superintendent Barbara Franklin when Wails pleaded guilty to infanticide.
''Although she maintained her story, evidence was mounting which soon disproved it. All the evidence pointed to the fact that Danielle was the only one who could have done this dreadful act.'' After the fire, a search of the home in Cowgate, Newcastle found batteries from recently installed smoke alarms had been removed.
Police also found Wails' house keys hidden in a laundry basket. Her injuries and the way her hands had been tied also indicated both could have been self-inflicted or self-administered.
REUTERS AB HT2130