The Independent, 18 March 2007
Whatever the coroner may say, Sally Clark died of a broken heart. She was traduced by a society that should have known better .......
How could I forget? The death of poor unfortunate tortured Sally Clark, the 42-year-old solicitor convicted of killing her two infant sons in 1999, only to be cleared of their murders in January 2003, is an utterly appalling modern tragedy, a dreadful stain on everything our so-called civilised society should hold dear.
I campaigned for Sally Clark's release - for three years - only to see her die as a result of the brutality of the British legal system and medical establishment. This was a young woman who wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mother, and found herself instead a convicted murderer, screamed at in prison as a child killer, the very epitome of evil. And all Sally Clark ever wanted to do was to love and protect her children.
The law did not see it that way. The law said that a mother who watched her two sons die within 12 weeks of their birth must be a potential killer - no matter how much she might protest her innocence. The experts said that any woman who suffered the dreadful misfortune of the deaths of her infant sons simply had to be viewed with the gravest suspicion - or, to use the phrase the experts liked, the jury's job was to "think dirty".
What a grotesque calumny. Sally Clark's two young sons died - even now we do not know exactly how - while she was looking after them in the main bedroom of her home in Cheshire. She was devastated by their deaths, as was their father and her husband, Stephen. But within weeks she had been charged with their murders. Worse was to come: in November 1999 she was convicted of their murders and sentenced to life.
Just imagine, for a moment, what that must have been like. You have given birth to two sons, only to see them die in mysterious circumstances, and now you are incarcerated for their killing - for almost no other reason than that a leading paediatrician, Sir Roy Meadow, was permitted to tell the jury that the chances of their being two infant deaths in the same family was one in 73 million, when the truth was more like one in 200.
In the wake of her conviction, the jubilant Cheshire Police had suggested, privately, in media briefings, that Sally had a "small drinking problem" and "didn't want to sacrifice her glamorous lifestyle for children" - and the world believed that whispering campaign. What utter, felonious, irresponsible nonsense. This was one of the great miscarriages of justice in modern British legal history.
When she came home after three years in jail, to a house she had never lived in, and to meet her third, and surviving, son - who barely recognised her - she struggled to cope. How could she not? Imagine how you would have felt: free, but with the stigma still with you, and an infant son who barely recognised you, and a husband who hadn't shared your bed in three years.
The burden of that injustice stayed with Sally Clark throughout the last brief years of her life. No one knows - yet - how she died, but I am convinced that her death was as a result of a broken heart: a woman unable to cope with the pain of being so utterly traduced by a society that should have known better.
On Mother's Day, let us all offer up a prayer for Sally Clark, the victim of a legal system that wanted us to "think dirty" about mothers who lost their children, and of unspeakably arrogant expert medical witnesses who could not conceive that they might be wrong, and the disinterest of a society that doesn't seem to care about the loss of an infant child - unless they happen to be stabbed in a public street.
I will never, ever forget Sally Clark; how could I? But let us hope and pray that society does not either - and let us hope that her memory reminds us all never to let medical experts, or lawyers, tell us what motherhood truly means.