Sally Clark

Sally Clark 1964-2007

Sally Clark

Sunday Telegraph Magazine - 10 March 2002

Sally Clark is three years into a life sentence for the murder of her first two babies. She insists she is innocent and hopes new evidence will prove it. Here, her husband Stephen describes how the case has blighted their lives - and that of their surviving son.


Mother's Day should be a happy day - a day for giving your mum a hug and a kiss and telling her how much you love her. But my little boy has been denied that right. His Mother's Day has been cancelled because his mum is cruelly locked away from him, enduring what my wife described to me in a letter earlier this week as a "living hell".

In 1999, Sally was wrongly convicted of murdering our first two children, Christopher and Harry, and she has been prevented from being part of our surviving child's life ever since.

"Although special occasions, like this Sunday, Christmas, anniversaries and birthdays, are desperately hard," she wrote to me, "what I really miss are ordinary, everyday things which most mothers can take for granted. What I long for above all else is the chance to take our son to nursery, cook his tea, feed the ducks with him, play in the park, splash water with him in the bath and read him a bedtime story." Instead of being a proper family, I have had to bring up our little boy, now three, on my own, at the same time as trying to cope with all the consequences of that wrongful conviction. We lost almost everything we had ever worked for - our house, our savings, our jobs, our car. Most importantly, we lost the chance to grieve for Christopher and Harry, who died within two years of each other, suddenly and unexpectedly, for reasons not even the prosecution doctors were able to explain. I even had to arrange the burials of our babies on my own without Sally.

Last Christmas (her third in prison), Sally was close to losing the last thing which remained to her - the hope that she would eventually receive justice. Although a number of medical breakthroughs last year meant that new tests could be carried out on the remaining tissue and blood samples from our babies, which might prove Sally's innocence, our doctors were unable to get hold of those samples.

Until then Sally, who is now 37, had been sustained by the steadfast love and support of her family and friends, as well as the large number of doctors and lawyers who have been helping us free of charge because they are appalled at what has happened. In addition, hundreds of members of the public have taken the time and trouble to write to us, to their MPs and to the Home Secretary, expressing their unease at what they regard as a blatant miscarriage of justice.

In her recent letter to me, Sally asked me to thank them all - "especially," she wrote, "those parents like us who have suffered the unexplained deaths of their babies and who, by writing, have had the courage to re-live their own painful memories to try to help me understand that I am not the only one to whom this double tragedy has occurred. All of these wonderful letters have been a great source of comfort to me. When I read them, I do not feel so alone in here."

My little boy and I are able to visit Sally for two precious hours most weekends, and he and Sally spend a special day together once every month. He has developed a marvellous relationship with her. I have to blink away the tears when we arrive and he shouts "Mummy", then runs to her for a cuddle.

We have made sure that he knows that Mummy loves him, that Daddy loves him and that Mummy and Daddy love each other very much, even though they have to be apart. He himself seems to sense that Sally and I need each other - he often says, "You cuddle and I'll play." He likes to watch us hold hands and embrace, then he will join in for a "family hug", saying "Aaaah, that's nice" and climbing on Sally's knee. I do not know how Sally copes when we have to leave - it crucifies me, and I cannot imagine what it does to her.

Our son is too young to understand the tragedy of his brothers' deaths, and the terrible miscarriage of justice suffered by his mother. He knows that the house he lives in belongs to Mummy and Daddy, but seems to accept that Sally does not live there for the time being. When he asks me, "Can Mummy come to my house?", I have to say, "No, not today - but soon."

Sally and I hope and pray that she will be home with us before he begins to ask the really difficult questions, because I have not the first clue what I am going to say to him. She wrote to me: "It is my dearest wish that we can tell him together what happened to his brothers, and what you and I have been through over the last three years in our own words and when we judge the time to be right."

She has remained as closely involved in our son's upbringing as is possible in these terrible circumstances, and is a very important part of his life. She designed the colour scheme and layout of his bedroom from colour charts and swatches of material I sent her. She chooses all his clothes from catalogues. She has helped me decide which school we would like him to go to from their brochures. She decided on the format of his last birthday party. She has insisted that he attend a dance and music class. She has written out the prayer she would like him to say before he goes to bed.

But, however hard we work at involving Sally in everyday family matters, mere brochures, photographs and my inadequate powers of description are poor substitutes for the real thing. "I have to rely on second-hand material to know what cuddly toys he has in his bed, what his favourite video is, whether he prefers marmalade or jam on his toast, or his reaction when he saw his first elephant at the zoo," she wrote to me. "When he cries for me at night, I cannot be there to comfort him. When he is ill I cannot help to nurse him through.

"Nothing will ever be able to compensate me or our little boy for the loss of these precious moments. Why, when I have done nothing wrong, am I being prevented from spending time with the two people I love the most?"

Yet, against all the odds, we have managed to remain a family. Strangely, it has drawn us closer and enabled us to forge a special bond which no one can break.

I am so proud of the way Sally has fought so hard for so long to survive for our little boy and me, while our defence team carries out the painstaking work necessary to launch a new appeal. But I really thought that we were losing her when I spoke to her on the telephone on Christmas Day. She was so dispirited at the obstacles that were constantly being put in the way of our quest to find the truth, and the length of time it was taking.

She seemed to have reached the end of her resources, and told me it was because our son had just reached the age when he realised something special was going on. He was old enough to get excited about Father Christmas, but she could not share his joy.

"Not being able to see the look on his face when he came downstairs this morning to all his presents under the tree is so cruel," she told me. "It is as though my heart is going to break," she said, when we had to say goodbye at the end of the call.

It is hard to describe what it feels like to lose two precious babies, and then have the person I love more than anything in the world locked away from me, knowing that she is innocent and that the system I once admired and respected has produced such a terribly wrong result.

Sally put it in a nutshell in her last letter. "In cases like mine, the burden of proof is reversed. Instead of being presumed innocent until proven guilty, I feel that I was assumed to be guilty unless I could find evidence which established my innocence." How can a bereaved, innocent mother like Sally prove how her sons died, when all of the paediatric experts at the time of her trial said that they did not know?

Our first son, Christopher, was born in December 1996. He was a lovely baby - blond, blue-eyed, happy, smiley, the apple of everyone's eye. He was no trouble at all, and was sleeping through the night almost from the start. We had planned long and hard for a family and could not have been happier when he was born; nor could we have been more devastated when he died, aged 12 weeks. He was certified to have died from a virus of the respiratory tract. I was not at home at the time because, as a partner in a law firm, I had to attend a departmental evening meal. Sally had fed him, put him to sleep in his Moses basket and gone downstairs to make a cup of tea. When she returned, Christopher had gone blue. She called an ambulance. The first I knew was when I received a telephone call in the restaurant.

After agonising for months, we decided that we owed it to his memory to try for a brother or sister. It was also part of our own healing process. Harry was born in November 1998. He was very different from his brother - not as good-looking, but a real character. He was so precious after what had happened to Christopher, and we took no risks. Sally was incredibly careful with him. She would not let friends who had colds come to the house and she would not let him out of her sight.

One night, when he was about eight weeks old, we had been watching television in bed. I had put Harry to sleep in his bouncy chair and went downstairs to make up a late-night feed for him. I had only been in the kitchen for three to four minutes when Sally screamed from our bedroom. I rushed upstairs - Sally had found Harry slumped in his bouncy chair. I tried in vain to resuscitate him, while Sally rang 999.

For the next month, we urged the hospital to do everything they could to find out why he had died. We filled in family trees, gave them medical records and pestered them for results.

However, unbeknown to us, Harry's death was being treated as suspicious by the police. Early one morning, there was a knock on the door. I was in the bath. When Sally answered it, there were several plain-clothes police officers. Sally let them in and asked them if they would like a cup of tea, thinking that they had come with news. They had - the news was that they were arresting both of us on suspicion of murdering Harry. We were taken to the police station and locked in separate cells. All our possessions were taken away, and my tie and shoelaces were removed. We were questioned separately for 10 hours, before being released on bail.

We had both been brought up to believe that if you tell the police the truth, you have nothing to fear. We had nothing to hide and waived our rights to a solicitor. This was a big mistake, because our honest responses to questions we did not have to answer were twisted and used against us at trial. A few weeks later, we were re-arrested on the suspicion of murdering Christopher, even though he had been certified as having died of natural causes.

We took advice from the best criminal lawyers we could find. A leading QC told us that there was not enough evidence with which to charge either of us. Six months later, however, the Crown Prosecution Service decided to charge Sally. There was no more evidence against her than there was against me, and I can only suppose that it was because she had had the misfortune to be on her own when Christopher died. But for that, I could be writing this from a prison cell myself.

It took nearly another 18 months for the case to come to trial in October 1999, during which time Sally had our third son. It was a long time to have something like that hanging over you.

But much has happened in the past two months. Important new evidence has come to light which may explain how our babies have died. A number of new doctors and other professionals have contacted us with new research into unexplained infant deaths, and the Criminal Cases Review Commission has appointed a senior caseworker to consider our application to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal.

Despite being let down so badly by the system, Sally retains her faith that eventually it will enable her to prove her innocence. She trained as a lawyer specialising in corporate law and her father was a senior police officer - she has a better understanding of and belief in the law than most. "However," she wrote, "that does not mean that I don't feel a sense of injustice and anger."

Sally was not prepared to lie to avoid prison: she would not plead guilty to infanticide at the trial, even though she knew this would influence her case. Nor, in the face of considerable pressure to accept her convictions, will she admit to something she did not do. "Even if that means that I might be released early," she told me in her letter. "I will not lie - I did not hurt our babies; I loved them more than anyone can ever know."

I have been married to Sally for nearly 12 years now. We both come from very ordinary backgrounds and had to work hard to become solicitors. I have never met a more gentle, caring and kind person. I saw her with our babies, and they were my sons, too. If for one minute I thought that she might have done anything to harm them, I would not have stood by her during the terrible ordeal of the past five years, and I would not be dedicating my every spare moment to working for her release.

But don't just take it from Sally or me: her loving care of our babies is corroborated by all our friends, family, neighbours, and all the health visitors and midwifes involved with Sally on a day to day basis. Take, also, our nanny, who was at the house five days a week for the first six weeks after our second baby, Harry, was born. "The atmosphere [in the home] was a very happy one," she has said. Sally was "extremely gentle . . . a proud and loving parent . . . She showed nothing but love and gentleness towards [the baby] . . . I do not believe that under any circumstances she would have harmed her sons."

While Sally's convictions stand, no mother who suffers the unexplained deaths of two babies is safe. Fifty families every year in the UK suffer the deaths of two or more of their babies. We ourselves have been contacted by more than 40 families who have lost two or more babies. A far cry from the false "one in 73 million or once every 100 years" statistic upon which Sally was convicted. An analysis of statistics out this week indicates that if a family suffers one cot death, they have a one in 64 chance of a second. The jury did not hear that.

Miscarriages of justice of this kind will continue to occur until all unexplained baby deaths are investigated by expert paediatric pathologists. Contrary to our express request, and also that of the hospital paediatrician, the post-mortem examination on Harry was carried out by the same local Home Office pathologist who did the autopsy on Christopher. Everything depended on the reliability of his findings. He, and only he, of the 12 medical experts who gave evidence, was prepared to venture causes of death for our babies. All the paediatric experts said they did not know how Christopher and Harry had died. "How can a person be convicted of murder when no one can say how the so-called victim died?" Sally asked me in her letter.

The prosecution tried to claim that our babies had been abused, but that allegation was as false as the statistics. Everyone agreed that there were no marks on either baby when they were admitted to hospital.

I am trying to resurrect my career as a solicitor in finance law and am now working in London again. Having lost everything as a result of the false convictions, it is important that I try to rebuild our life so that, when we get Sally out, she will be able to come back to some semblance of normality.

When I last visited Sally, she talked to me about a television commercial she remembered from years ago, where the children surprise their mum on Mother's Day by bringing her breakfast in bed at some ungodly hour of the morning. She said: "My dream is that, on Mother's Day next year, I will be sat up in bed sharing breakfast with you and our little boy." I will do everything in my power to make Sally's dream come true.

Stephen Clark has not been paid for this article. For more information on the case, see

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