Mother Jailed For Murdering Daughter In Fordingbridge

18 March 2019, 11:26 | Updated: 18 March 2019, 11:38

Bethan Colebourn

A former teacher's been jailed for a minimum of 18 years, for murdering her three-year-old daughter in Fordingbridge.

Claire Colebourn drowned Bethan in a bath in Whitsbury Road in 2017, after her marriage broke down. The court heard she hit 'rock bottom' after her husband Michael ended their 16-year-relationship.

The 36-year-old, who now lives in Oxford, was found guilty last Friday.

Colebourn was handed the life sentence with the minimum term on Monday at Winchester Crown Court after a jury deliberated for less than three hours before returning a unanimous verdict.

She woke their daughter Bethan at their home in Whitsbury Road, Fordingbridge, Hampshire, in the early hours of 19 October 2017, led her to the bath and held her body under the water before making multiple suicide attempts.

The ex-sixth form biology teacher was discovered by her mother about 14 hours later in a diabetic coma.

Colebourn, dressed in a black jacket and wearing glasses, rubbed her temples with her hands, shook her head and looked at the floor as details of her crimes were detailed to the court. She did not react when handed the sentence.

Mrs Justice Johannah Cutts told the 36-year-old: 

"Bethan was clearly a beautiful little girl who was full of life. She had everything to live for.

"You were her mother, you were responsible for her care and her wellbeing."

Colebourn planned to end Bethan's life, set an alarm to "carry out the act" and altered her will the next day, the court heard.

During the eight-day trial, the jury of five women and six men were told she initially denied all memory of the incident, but later recalled how Bethan agreed to have a bath in the middle of the night at her mother's instruction, telling police: "Sadly, my little girl trusted me completely."

Colebourn admitted killing Bethan but said she only wanted to "save" and "protect" her from her father Michael - who Colebourn had met at university and is now the chief executive of luxury marine interior company Trimline.

The pair separated just over a month before Bethan's death and Mr Colebourn had moved out.

Kerry Maylin, prosecuting, told the court their relationship had been difficult and the defendant had made "unfounded accusations" her husband was having an affair with his company's finance director, claiming the pair were planning to take over the business and start a new life together.

Colebourn went looking for her husband's car and became convinced he was monitoring her computer so bought a new one and changed her internet connection.

Within minutes of receiving the new computer in October she started searching for suicide-related websites, the court heard.

A doctor described how she was "only emotional when discussing the fact Michael Colebourn had left her and her daughter and her father had done the same to her mother".

In a letter intercepted at hospital, she said: "In my eyes I saved her, everything over those days is a blur."

Colebourn later told police: "I am responsible for Bethan's death because she drowned and I am responsible for it. Bethan drowned because I was there, I held her under the water."

Ms Maylin said Bethan was particularly vulnerable given her age and had trusted her mother.

The NSPCC said it was a "desperately sad case" and Colebourn "failed her daughter in the worst possible way".

Karim Khalil QC, defending, said Colebourn appeared to have a personality disorder but this was disputed among experts.

He told the court she "sustained and maintained" her account and never sought to "deflect attention" over what happened to her daughter.

Colebourn has spent nearly a year in custody already and this will be deducted from the minimum term she must serve before facing the parole board who will determine whether she is ever released.

After the sentencing, Michael Colebourn said in a statement issued by Hampshire Constabulary: 

"There are no words to describe the past 18 months. The one thing in my life that gave me purpose has gone.

"My beautiful daughter has been taken from me in such a cold and callous manner at the very hands of the one other person that should have protected her and kept her safe.

"The loss of Bethan has had a huge impact on so many people: family, friends, and all that knew her. She was such a special little girl - bringing so much joy to all their lives.

"Throughout the criminal trial, I and all those that loved Bethan have had to endure the heartbreak of listening to her last moments. I have also had to suffer endless unfounded allegations and lies made against me with no opportunity to respond.

"I desperately miss being a daddy - we would have such great times together; Bethan's laugh was infectious and her energy was endless. There is not a second in the day that goes by that I am not thinking about her.

"Bethan was my world and being her daddy made me so proud. I miss her so much."