A mother's love. It's the most natural thing in the world. But for some women, even murdering their own precious flesh and blood isn't off limits...
A crime of revenge
Dear Mum, the letter said. I love you because your funny, your butifull and I like the way you are…
Little 9-year-old Matthew Fitchett clearly adored his mother Donna. The sweet note was left on his parents’ bedside table, by a photo of him and his big brother Thomas, 11.
It made the events of September 2005 even more impossible to understand.
The following day, while Donna’s husband, David, was at work, she told her sons they were going on a trip and needed to take some medicine.
A qualified nurse, she gave her boys a cocktail of drugs. Donna put her innocent sons to bed before strangling Thomas to death.
Next, she went to murder Matthew. Only the little boy woke up and began to struggle…
He must’ve been terrified. Even the family dog tried to intervene.
Donna calmly put the pet outside, went back into the house in Balwyn, Melbourne, Australia and suffocated Matthew.
Afterwards, she washed and dressed her boys as she didn’t want people to think they were not ‘well looked after.’
When David arrived home, Donna was in her underwear, drugged and clutching an apparent suicide note.
David then discovered the cold bodies of his beloved sons.
Donna was later arrested for murder.
It transpired she and David had marital problems and, just days before, she’d told David she was leaving him and taking the kids.
Donna was thought to be upset that Thomas had wanted to live with his father.
A revenge killing of an innocent child?
At the Supreme Court of Victoria, Donna Fitchett, 49, was found guilty of her sons’ murders. She was jailed for 24 years, to serve a minimum of 18.
In 2010, she was granted a retrial, but the conviction was upheld and her sentence increased to 27 years.
Murdered for being ‘mouthy’
In January 2011, military wife Julie Schenecker went to buy a gun.
Three days later, she collected the weapon from the store. Then she did something truly shocking…
While taking her 13-year-old son, Beau, to football practice, she shot him in the side of the head and again in the mouth.
He hadn’t seen it coming – Beau had been bent over in the passenger seat tying his shoelace.
Afterwards, Julie drove to Tampa Bay. Florida, parking in the garage.
She went inside and callously shot her daughter Calyx, 16, while she did her homework.
Like her brother, Calyx was also shot in the head and mouth.
Julie said that one side of her daughter’s mouth appeared to be smiling as she lay dead. So she forced the other side of Calyx’s mouth into a smile, too.
Next Julie covered the kids with blanckets before taking some pills and passing out.
Later, the police arrived – they’d been contacted by Julie’s own mother, worried that she hadn’t been able to reach her daughter.
When arrested, Julie said she shot her kids because they’d been ‘mouthy’.
Julie’s devastated husband Parker flew back from Qatar, when he’d been deployed by the US Military.
Julie, who suffered from mental-health problems, said she’d killed her children to protect them. She didn’t want Calyx to suffer the same demons that she had – and she claimed to be saving Beau from sexual molestation, although she gave no further details.
But diary entries indicated she’d long been planning this horrendous, and well-thought-out crime.
In April 2014, at Hillsborough County Court, Julie Schenecker, 53, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Suffocated as they slept
The net was closing in on Martin Smith…
He was on the Metropolitan Police’s most-wanted list for suspected sexual abuse offences.
So, with his partner, Lianne Smith, and her child, Rebecca, he fled to Spain from the UK.
Eighteen months later, in June 2009, Lianne gave birth to their son Daniel.
But when the tot was 11 months old, Spanish police arrested Martin Smith and he was deported.
Lianne was convinced that British social services were in Spain to take her children away.
She fled to a hotel in Lloret de Mar on the Costa Brava.
But after a three-day holiday, she took the children from their beds, pinned down their legs and put plastic bags over their heads until they suffocated.
Afterwards, Lianne stayed with her dead children overnight before asking staff at the hotel reception to call the police.
She told officers: ‘I ended the lives of my children. I gave them a perfect three-day holiday.’
Martin Smith was later convicted of 11 counts of rape, attempted rape, indecency with a child and indecent assault.
He was found hanged in his cell in Stangeways prison in January 2012.
Six months later, Lianne Smith, 45, was jailed for 30 years for the murder of her two children.
Rebecca and Daniel were buried in a public cemetery in Lloret de Mar.