Published: 18:06, 16 August 2019
| Updated: 18:20, 16 August 2019
Three psychiatrists appeared in court to determine the mental state of a woman who killed her 23-month-old babies.
Samantha Ford drowned twins Chloe and Jake in the bath on Boxing Day last year at their home in Margate.
Ford admitted two counts of manslaughter by diminished responsibility at an earlier trial and was sentenced to 10 years in prison today.
She will be taken to a psychiatric unit until she is well enough to go to prison.
Hours after killing her children she drove into the back of a lorry without wearing a seatbelt, and told officers: "Just let me die" and "I killed my babies. I would never hurt them, they are my miracle babies."
Their grieving father Steven Ford, who attended the sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey with his family, said she knew her actions were “the ultimate punishment”.
Consultant psychiatrist Philip Joseph told the court that Ford's poor mental health was a “significant contributory factor” in the killings.
Arguing her culpability for her crimes was “medium”, he said: “My opinion was that the abnormality of mental functioning was a significant contributory factor - it wasn’t the cause of the killings but it was a contributory factor.
“Taking everything into account I’ve come to the conclusion that the illness was moderate severity. The abnormality of mental functioning is a depressive illness of at least moderate severity.
“She was quite fixated about Steven Ford while in hospital, wanting to know he was suffering as well.
“I think more important and influencing my opinion is his (Steven Ford) impact statement itself. I think that has to be taken into account, his perception of why she did this is important. Unless the courts decide he was being vindictive in that statement - an impression I did not get."
"What we find is what she's most regretful about is losing that perfect life, a perfect life with Steve in Qatar. A perfect life with her miracle children..." Dr Philip Joseph
Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Muzaffar Hussain told the hearing Ford was a “narcissist” obsessed with having the “perfect life” and made up claims of hearing voices telling her to kill her children.
He said: “What we find is what she's most regretful about is losing that perfect life, a perfect life with Steve in Qatar. A perfect life with her miracle children. The perfect house.
"It's the loss of that that she grieves. In my view that's a balanced view of where she is in the grieving process.
"I don't think she's grieving for the children yet, I think she's grieving for the loss of her life. In my view she had depressive symptoms at the time.
"However, at the same time she was very wounded narcissistically by Mr Ford's departure from the family home and how her perfect life, which she felt was perfect in every way, was taken away from her.
Dr Hussain said Ford's claims she 'heard a male voice telling her to kill the children' was an 'embellishment'.
He said: "In my opinion the self report of voices is embellishment. I am not denying she's ill, but I think there's a wish by her to appear more severely ill than she is."
However, defence expert witness Gillian Mezey, a Professor of Psychiatrist said she had developed a severe "depressive illness".
She told the court: "My understanding is that the impulse, the thought about killing her children was something that only occurred very shortly before the children’s death and that’s certainly what she said to me.
"She killed the children knowing that she was about to kill herself and having determined that was what she was about to do.
“I concluded that she had developed a depressive illness, I felt that it was severe in nature."
She answered “no” when asked if she believed “anger” or “a wish to punish Steven Ford played a role in any way,” and added: “What I’m saying is that the illness has led her to acting entirely out of character.”
Arguing anger and depression were “two sides of the same coin”, Prof Mezey added: “She was angry, she she hurt, she was resentful, she was confused, there were lots of emotions at the time, but the over-riding factor was her depressive disorder.
“A lot of the secondary emotions were there because she was depressed.”
The defence’s expert witness referred to previous findings by consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Joseph that Ford was only “moderately” depressed and that her condition was only a “contributory factor” to her crimes, second to her “anger”.
Prof Mezey said: "I think talk about anger, even by your expert witnesses is rather speculative because I certainly have not seen any evidence to suggest that the index offence was driven by anger, feelings of anger, feelings of revenge or a wish for revenge and I’ve not seen in her history tendency for angry outbursts.
"Those (personality) traits made her peculiarly sensitive to abandonment and rejection but they did not play a role in the commission of the offence and did not consider them to be relevant at all on whether or not the depressive illness met the criteria of a diffierence of diminshed responsibility.
"There’s no previous history of aggression or violence, she was a good, caring, loving attentive mother by every account. Essentially there wasn’t evidence that she was an angry depressive, vindictive person anywhere.
"In Mrs Ford’s case, what I’m really referring to is if you like, feelings of some emotional insecurity, insecure attachments to other people and perhaps she compensates for that in some way by being what we’ve heard is slightly controlling, although I might describe it as being rather organised and benefiting from having a structured approach to her life and needing people around her because those people give her a sense of security.
"I think it's indicative of a degree of irrationality. She was determined to kill herself..." Professor Mezey
"She seems, in layman's terms, to have slightly gone off the rails in her teenage years.
"She had some unstable relationships, she took an overdose, it’s not uncommon.
"Although they were present while as a teenager, all the evidence is she was very well adjusted as an adult.”
Prosecutor Tom Kark QC, cross-examining Prof Mezey, said: “Whilst she was talking with her parents and reassuring them that she was safe with the children she clearly had in her mind drowning the children, didn’t she?"
He continued: “The thought had come into her head in fact, it would seem, some three hours earlier. At three o’clock she was googling how long does it take to drown children.
“We know that they went off to Sainsbury’s to get some food and once they left the house, which was sometime after six o’clock, there was a 28 minute period where she must have killed the children.
“Within 27 minutes or so of that the children are dead.
"So when she closed the door she had to run along, collect the twins, undress them, went to the bathroom, put them in the bowl and then she had to take them out and dry them and then she had to get them into their clothes and put them to bed.”
He added: "Thereafter she lies to people about what has happened. When asked by her parents, 'Jake and Chloe are asleep' - does that not indicate an element of control?"
Professor Mezey - who earlier described the killings as “entirely out of character” - replied: “There’s absolutely no evidence that anger played any role in the killing.
"In absence of the disorder, this killing would not have happened."
She added: "I think it's indicative of a degree of irrationality. She was determined to kill herself."
At an earlier hearing, Ed Brown QC, prosecuting, said: "We suggest there is evidence she was a materialistic person in the sense she resented losing her good lifestyle in Qatar, that she had been searching the internet and in particular about killing herself and her children."
A message Ford had sent her husband said: “Why do you choose a job in London over living in an amazing country with our children? Now our children are going to live a miserable life. Now we are destined to live a miserable life.”
Heart-broken Steven Ford said in a statement to the court: "I believe what happened here is an extreme version of her character. Like a tantrum. She knew it was the ultimate punishment.
"The total shock and pain is indescribable. My two beautiful babies were healthy, bright and loving children who had everything to life for.
"I know this will be something I will never get over as long as I live. I'm completely helpless in this situation and I don't know what to do.
"In that moment my life had changed in a heartbeat.
"Jake and Chloe were wanted babies. Samantha and I went through four attempts of IVF and years of heartache."
Brenda Campbell QC, in mitigation, described Ford as a “devoted mother” and said: "She suffered a catastrophic level of depression leading her to believe that she and the children needed to die.
"Samantha Ford was a devoted mother to Chloe and to Jake Ford. The children were loved and cared for by her and she very much put their interests of their wellbeing above anything else, above herself and probably above her marital relationship.”