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
By STEPHEN CLARK
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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