The final hours: Lianne Smith with her son Daniel, the weekend before he was killed
Guilty: Paedophile Martin Smith has been convicted of a string of sex abuse charges against a young girl. This image was taken to promote his career as a psychic
Tragic: Beccy and Daniel Smith play on a Spanish beach, days before their deaths
Last holiday: Beccy Smith enjoying an ice cream in Lloret Del Mar
Former home: The Barcelona apartment block where Lianne Smith lived with her partner Martin Smith, before his arrest, and the subsequent killing in a hotel room of their two children
Suspect: Lianne Smith arrives at Girona prison in Spain after her first court appearance where she was formally accused of the murder of her two children
Martin Smith, the TV psychic whose partner is accused of killing their two children at a Spanish hotel, was yesterday found guilty of a string of sex offences against a young girl.
The former Butlin’s entertainer used hypnotism and violence to abuse his victim for almost a decade, starting when she was only seven.
A jury at Manchester Crown Court found him guilty on 11 counts of rape, attempted rape, indecency with a child and indecent assault.
Smith, 45, was extradited from Spain in May, three years after he fled the UK with his partner Lianne.
Days later, at the Costa Brava resort of Lloret de Mar, she is alleged to have smothered their daughter Rebecca, five, and 11-month-old son Daniel. She is awaiting trial for murder.
Her partner was remanded until February for reports but Mr Justice Stephen Irwin said a ‘significant custodial sentence is inevitable’.
Smith will be kept under constant suicide watch as he waits to learn how long he must spend in jail.
During the week-long trial, 44-year-old Lianne Smith gave evidence via a video link on the suspected paedophile’s behalf. She described his victim’s testimony as ‘absolute nonsense’.
And in a Spanish prison interview with the Daily Mail, she made it clear she would be standing by him whatever the verdict.
Few people could ever be accused of such misplaced loyalty as Lianne Smith. Despite the sickening paedophile offences of which her partner Martin was convicted yesterday, she has never doubted his innocence for one moment.
During the seven months since she allegedly suffocated their children with a plastic bag in a hotel on the Costa Brava, she has written to Smith daily. Her one monthly phone call is with him.
Giving evidence on his behalf via video link, she tearfully insisted he was ‘friendly, generous, kind’. He was the most honest person she had ever met, she said, and she loved him.
Now that he has been convicted, how will she react? It is a question the Daily Mail put to her shortly before the trial in an hour-long interview at the jail in Girona where she is being held.
‘If Martin is found guilty then there’ll be no point me being here,’ she said. So, she intends to take her own life?
‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘I want to be with the children. If Martin isn’t freed I will join them. I desperately miss them every day and most nights I have nightmares they are being taken away from me.'
‘I wake up terrified. My heart is thumping. I’m not sure they are caused by what I did or because of my fear that the children would be taken away. I want to be with them.’
Talk to Lianne Smith and time and again one is left shaking one’s head in stunned disbelief at the warped logic in which she wraps the deaths of Beccy and little Daniel. After all, if she had wanted to be with them she still could be: here in the real world.
But she saw – and still sees – things very differently. Nothing that happened is her fault and everything she did, she said, was done out of ‘love’.
‘I couldn’t let the children be taken away from me knowing what their life would be like,’ she said.
‘Children in care have no chance. If they are not abused, they end up on drugs or in prison. You can’t argue with the statistics. Everyone knows they have an awful existence. As a mother who loves her children I couldn’t let them suffer like that. I had to protect them.’
Her words might explain what happened. But they do not go any way to excusing it.
Beccy and Daniel’s short lives came to an end in May this year. The family had fled to Spain because Martin Smith (the couple are unmarried but share the same surname) was on the run from police in Britain.
Charged with rape, Smith left the country in December 2007. Lianne, who worked in the children’s services department for Cumbria County Council, believed his protestations of innocence and she and Beccy went with him.
They made a home for themselves in Barcelona, where Daniel was born.
But on May 8 Smith was arrested by Spanish police.
Not long before, the family’s apartment had been burgled and his partner had reported it to the authorities. Smith was on an international ‘wanted’ list and police put two and two together and got their man.
From jail, Lianne revealed what happened next.
As Smith was held in custody pending extradition, she and the two children remained in the Barcelona flat. Initially she assumed they would be able to live normally. She even hired a nanny so she could continue work running a nursery group. Then, suddenly, one week on, she fled.
What triggered this, she claimed, was an email from a British charity, the Falsely Accused Support Organisation. It helps those who claim to have been wrongly accused of abusing children. While in Spain, she had contacted it, asking for advice.
The email said her children had been placed on a missing persons list.
‘The charity warned me that it was a way of UK social services coming over here and taking the children. I felt very nervous.’
That soon turned into paranoia.
‘I left the flat with Beccy and Daniel to do some shopping and noticed two cars parked outside. The men in the cars saw me and signalled to each other. I felt sick. I knew that they were after us.
‘We walked up the street and an old woman stopped and asked me if I was the English woman in the newspapers. I felt cornered. I knew I would have to get away for the sake of the children. It felt like a net was closing in.’
She headed to the city’s train station and then on to the resort of Lloret de Mar on the Costa Brava. The family had spent three weeks there when they arrived in Spain. Beccy remembered it and was thrilled. Her mother, however, was already plotting their deaths, booking the hotel for just three nights.
But first, in some twisted attempt to make up for what would happen next, she was determined they would enjoy one last holiday together.
‘Beccy and Daniel were so happy,’ she recalled, smiling. ‘Daniel was a perfect baby – he loved playing in the sand. We went to playgrounds, ate ice creams and I bought Beccy a cream jacket which she was thrilled with.
‘During the day, she would collect shells and pebbles in her bucket. She loved miniature things. She would sit on our balcony and arrange them in different colours and sizes. She’d spend hours playing with them.’
Lianne also allowed Beccy to have her ears pierced, something she had been nagging her mother about for months.
‘She was so proud of them. She couldn’t stop smiling.’
So why did she finally allow the piercing? ‘I thought that in the circumstances I would let her have them done,’ she said, without emotion.
The ‘circumstances’ to which she so matter-of-factly referred were that she had decided her daughter would die the following day. A last treat, then.
Lianne Smith’s description of the children’s last hours is astonishing enough. But chillingly, she also photographed their last days. In one picture she is shown gently holding her baby son, the snap apparently taken by Beccy.
In another, the children are shown swinging in a play area and larking about on the beach. Then Beccy is captured enjoying an ice cream sundae dripping with sticky red sauce.
The children are so joyful, so vital, so happy to be alive. Couldn’t she have let them live?
‘I wish I could,’ she said. ‘I wish that more than anything, but I had no choice.
‘Time was running out. Social services could have come to grab them at any time. I had to protect them’.
Surely better that, than death?
‘I worked in social services,’ she reiterated coldly. ‘I know how terrible the children’s lives are in care. I couldn’t let them be taken away knowing what their life would be like. Children in care have no chance.’
And so the charade continued. By day they played happy holidays. By night, she plotted her children’s deaths.
‘During the day I made sure it was a happy time but the nights were terrible,’ she said. ‘After I put them to bed I would lie there sobbing silently. I was so scared not knowing what to do and yet knowing what I had to do to protect them. I felt really desperate.’
During the interview with the Mail, smiles and happy reminiscences were interspersed with tears and sighs over what she said she was ‘forced’ to do.
Of the fateful night itself, she said she remembered little – ‘My mind has blanked it out – I think to protect me.’ But she said she had managed to confide in someone from her legal team.
‘I relived a lot of things I hadn’t thought about. I just crashed. I cried solidly for four days. I was at rock bottom. I didn’t see the point of going on. I cried until I had no more tears left. I just wanted to die and be with my children.’
While she would not relate the precise details of how her son and daughter died, she did describe her own attempt at suicide.
‘I cut my wrists, then tied a cord around my neck and attached it to the door which had a slow automatic closing system. The idea was that the cord would tighten around my neck and kill me but I couldn’t get it to work. I tried several times.
‘I desperately wanted to die but I couldn’t physically kill myself. I wanted to jump off a cliff but I couldn’t leave the children. I couldn’t bear to leave them alone in that room. They are my babies and I had to be there for them.’
Having spent the night next to their bodies, she went to the hotel’s reception and asked them to call the police and an ambulance. She was arrested shortly afterwards and will face two counts of murder after a judge ruled out sending her to a psychiatric unit.
In the months which have passed since, it is clear that Lianne Smith has woven together a story by which she has taught herself to justify her despicable actions. She said she believes in an ‘after-life’ and that she has helped her children to escape from a miserable existence in this world. She is not religious, she added, just ‘spiritual’.
‘I can sense things and I know the children are with me in some form now,’ she explained. ‘We are made up of energy, and science proves that energy can’t just disappear. Four days after I was arrested, I lay in the police cell at night when the temperature suddenly dropped and the room went really cold.
‘I was wearing all my clothes and had two blankets on. I started to rub my shoulders but couldn’t warm myself up. Then I looked on the wall and saw a pink orb and a smaller green orb. I instinctively knew the pink orb was Beccy and the green orb was Daniel.
‘They were really happy and the green orb followed the pink orb around the room. They moved along together and danced together. The orbs then faded away and the room warmed up again immediately. I felt so happy and reassured.’
It is a truly bizarre account and many will find it abhorrent that a mother can seek personal comfort from the memory of the children she killed. But she does, and her face lights up when she is asked how she marked their birthdays, following their deaths.
‘I spent Daniel’s birthday remembering every minute of his birth,’ she said. ‘That was such a happy day. As I remembered it, all the emotions came flooding back. I had the same warm feeling when I got to hold him for the first time. He was so perfect.’
And what about Rebecca’s sixth birthday – the one she never lived to see? ‘Again I thought happy thoughts about her all day. Beccy always loved white chocolate. On her birthday I ate white chocolate and savoured every taste. Again, it was a happy day and a chance to feel close to her.’
Given the accusations levelled against her partner, does she not worry that people might conclude that she killed the children to hide other secrets she did not want to emerge?
‘I’d never thought of that,’ she said, sounding shocked. ‘I don’t really care if people think that because it’s not true. To me it was totally separate at the time.’
Incredibly, she also claims that she had never discussed the deaths of the children with Smith.
‘I was very nervous the first time we spoke as to what he would say,’ she said. ‘The first phone call only lasted ten seconds before we got cut off and we only had time to ask each other how we were. I was worried he wouldn’t love me but I now know he does.
‘Although we write to each other every day we haven’t discussed what happened. It’s the sort of thing you can only speak about face to face. I don’t really know what he thinks about it all.’
And with those words she readied herself to leave, said her goodbyes and headed off to the cell that she shares with two other women. Her trial has not yet been heard, but when it does more will be told of what she did and why she did it.
No doubt it will also be told how the Spanish police entered her hotel room and found a note, in her handwriting, left by the bodies of the two children.
‘I hope you can forgive me,’ it read.
Of whom she is asking that question – her children, her partner or society in general – it is difficult to know.
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