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Mother who killed babies walks free

Kirsty Scott
Tuesday June 15, 2004
The Guardian

A mother who killed two of her newborn babies and hid their bodies in a wardrobe for years has been placed on probation for three years by a Scottish court.

At the high court in Airdrie yesterday the judge, Lord Bracadale, told Susan MacLeod, 27, from the island of Lewis, that her case was "unknown in modern times".

MacLeod had initially been charged with murdering three babies at birth, but pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to the lesser charge of the culpable homicide of two, a girl and a boy, between 1996 and 2000 by failing to obtain antenatal care and failing to care properly for them at birth.

Her plea of not guilty to murdering the third infant in 2000 was accepted by the crown. The baby, a girl, had been stillborn.

MacLeod, then 24, told police that she gave birth alone, then wrapped the babies in bin bags. No one knew she had been pregnant.

The infants' skeletal remains were discovered after MacLeod moved out of a flat in Glasgow's Summertown Road. A man doing repairs found them, taped in binbags inside a wardrobe, in April 2001. Flatmates had complained of a smell, but nothing had ever been found.

Lord Bracadale said yesterday that MacLeod's actions had been "strange and disturbing".

He said: "You have pled guilty to the culpable homicide of your two newborn babies and a third baby stillborn. What makes it strange and disturbing was the way in which you disposed of the bodies.

"On the second occasion you were very fortunate not to have lost your own life.

"A case like this has not been known in modern times. You have no previous convictions and have led an otherwise ordinary life. I have found it very difficult how to deal with this case, but have decided I should place you on probation."

The judge made it a special condition of the three-year probation order that MacLeod continue with her current contraception under the direction of her GP. If she becomes pregnant she must inform social workers immediately and seek antenatal treatment.

Gordon Jackson QC, for the defence, said it was a uniquely difficult case. He had told an earlier hearing that MacLeod had been a victim of sexual abuse as a child, which had led her to distance herself from reality. She had killed the two children, he said, by "doing nothing".

Leaving court with her parents, MacLeod refused to comment.

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