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Depressed mother treated son to McDonald’s Happy Meal before jumping into icy reservoir to kill them

Emma Sillett (pictured above) drover her son to a remote spot before tying their wrists together 

A depressed mother treated her son to a McDonald’s Happy Meal before filling his rucksack with rocks and tying their hands together before jumping into a reservoir and killing them both.

Emma Sillett, 41, had taken five-year-old Jenson Spellman for some food before driving them to the deserted spot in Derbyshire to end their lives.

The social worker left an emotional note in her car which explained she was tethering herself to her son because she could not bear the thought on him ‘drifting away’.

Chesterfield Coroner’s Court heard that little Jenson was found facing Ms Sillett and had been ‘tied to her by his wrist’.

Detective Constable Rebecca Fearon told the inquest: ‘She had a rucksack on her back which contained rocks.’

During the hearing, the court also heard that Ms Sillett had struggled for years with depression and had previously suffered three miscarriages.

Despite this, police said the breakdown of her relationship with Jenson’s father had appeared to have been the ‘the major issue in her life’ that had triggered the tragedy.

Her suicide note made it clear she wanted to end her life, but could not stand the thought of leaving her son to face life without her.

Their bodies were found at Valehouse Reservoir in the Derbyshire Peak District, two days after they were reported missing on November 20 last year.

Jenson (pictured above) was said to have been scared the previous day - prevent Ms Sillett from taking their lives

Jenson (pictured above) was said to have been scared the previous day – prevent Ms Sillett from taking their lives 

A child’s cuddly toy and a torch at the water’s edge led police to the gruesome discovery. In her note the mother said she would leave ‘a marker’ to help locate their bodies.

It also described how she had tried to carry out her plan the day before but she had stopped because Jenson had ‘got frightened’.

Detective Constable Rebecca Fearon told the inquest that the following day Ms Sillett’s partner John Spellman dialled 999 when she and their son failed to return home.

He highlighted that his partner had been ‘very low’ and that she had previously spoken about ‘ending it all’, but had never indicated that she would harm their son.

Police eventually found Ms Sillett’s black Peugeot 308 at the reservoir the following day, less than three miles from the family’s home in the village of Dinting, near Glossop.

DC Fearon said officers found a mobile phone inside, along with the remains of a Happy Meal, a handbag and purse.

There were also a number of handwritten letters and a length of chord.

The bodies of the mother and son were pulled from a reservoir in Derbyshire (police at the scene above)

The bodies of the mother and son were pulled from a reservoir in Derbyshire (police at the scene above)

The toy and child’s torch were discovered close by at the water’s edge, but as darkness fell the search was called off. When a specialist underwater team returned the next day they found the two bodies.

The court was told toxicology tests showed neither had any injuries and no traces of any drugs were found in their systems.

DC Fearon said letters found in the car referred to Ms Sillett taking her life and the best way to commit suicide ‘without causing pain or distress’.

‘It said she would leave a marker* it seems the torch was that marker,’ added the officer.

‘It was clear she battled with thoughts of suicide, but had also battled with continuing to live,’ said DC Fearon.

Friends and family members left tributes to Jenson at a local park in the area after his death was announced

Friends and family members left tributes to Jenson at a local park in the area after his death was announced

One note which had been drawn by a friend of Jenson's pictured a rainbow and a dinosaur

One note which had been drawn by a friend of Jenson’s pictured a rainbow and a dinosaur 

In the letter she spoke about taking pills, but also talked about ‘wanting to jump into water near her car. She also spoke about taking Jenson with her.’

It suggested she had tried to carry out her plan the previous day, but had stopped herself from going through with it.

DC Fearon added that in the letter, Ms Sillett had battled with what to do and had penned that she had tried to save Jenson ‘from this world’ and that she never wanted to hurt him.

‘She said she could not stand the thought of Jenson living without her. She talked about never wanting to put him through a life of pain and being bullied and singled out.

‘And she said she wanted to tie him to her because she did not want him drifting away from her.’

Those local to the area left flowers and some had previously said that Ms Sillett had been dealing with 'underlying issues'

Those local to the area left flowers and some had previously said that Ms Sillett had been dealing with ‘underlying issues’ 

People left tributes to the youngster whose mother was said to have had a 'traumatised childhood'

People left tributes to the youngster whose mother was said to have had a ‘traumatised childhood’

The letter spoke about how she had been ‘traumatised’ by her own childhood and how she had sought help and undergone some therapy, but added: ‘Nothing had helped’.

Other letters were addressed to family members, apologising for what she was about to do and explaining why she had killed her son.

The inquest was told a series of personal tragedies including three miscarriages between 2015 and 2017 and how the sudden death of her older brother Jonathan had contributed to her mental health problems.

The 42-year-old collapsed and died in July 2012 after an altercation with a motorist outside his home in North Wales. A murder investigation was launched, but it later emerged he had suffered a heart attack. One man later pleaded guilty to using threatening behaviour.

What is Marfan Syndrome?

Marfan syndrome is a disorder of the body’s connective tissues – a group of tissues that maintain the structure of the body and support internal organs and other tissues.

Children usually inherit the disorder from one of their parents.

Typical characteristics of Marfan syndrome include:

  • being tall
  • abnormally long and slender limbs, fingers, and toes (arachnodactyly)
  • heart defects
  • lens dislocation – the lens of the eye falls into an abnormal position   

There’s no cure for Marfan syndrome, so treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and reducing the risk of complications. 

He suffered from Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissue, which causes sufferers to have flexible joints and scoliosis. In the most serious cases the heart can be weakened.

Despite being told by medics neither she nor Jenson were suffering from the syndrome, Ms Sillett was convinced her son had health issues.

Nicola Sillett told police her sister was one of seven siblings who had grown up in Old Colwyn, North Wales. She had been bullied as a child, but described her as ‘intelligent and strong minded’.

Ms Sillett, who had worked as a social worker dealing with adoptions at Stockport Council for 15 years, had felt isolated following her move to Derbyshire after meeting John.

Her sister said Emma had confided in her that the relationship had been deteriorating over the last two years.

Mr Spellman told detectives his partner had been badly affected by her brother’s death, she had concerns about Jenson’s health and development and was finding her work stressful.

He said she had made comments about suicide in the past, but never mentioned Jenson.

‘In the days before her death she was distant and writing notes, but I did not realise what they were,’ he told officers.

The inquest heard in recent years Ms Sillett had contacted her GP and local mental health team about depression and suicidal thoughts and had been referred for help, but on more than one occasion she had failed to keep appointments.

The McDonald's restaurant that Ms Sillett had taken her young son to before taking both of their lives

The McDonald’s restaurant that Ms Sillett had taken her young son to before taking both of their lives 

The Valehouse reservoir (pictured above) where Jenson and his mother's body was found after she tied rocks to him

The Valehouse reservoir (pictured above) where Jenson and his mother’s body was found after she tied rocks to him

Two reviews of Ms Sillett’s treatment and potential risks to her son both found that no one could have foreseen or prevented what she did.

Ms Sillett and Jenson were captured on CCTV leaving the house at 8.45am on November 20. She had rung in sick from work and called her son’s teachers at Simmondley Primary School, saying he was unwell – as she had done the previous day.

They were later caught on CCTV at a McDonald’s in Hattersley, just a few miles away, where they stayed for an hour. They were never seen alive again.

That afternoon Mr Spellman received a text from his partner at 3.20pm which simply read ‘Sorry’.

Other tributes had pictures of farm yard animals and love hearts on them which read 'Jenson we love youi'

Other tributes had pictures of farm yard animals and love hearts on them which read ‘Jenson we love youi’

A last photograph of her son was found on Ms Sillett’s computer tablet times at 3.49pm.

Concerned when they did not return home that night he eventually rang 999 at 11.30pm and reported both as missing.

DC Fearon added: ‘It’s clear Emma struggled with life and all the evidence points to depression being a long term and recurring issue, but there was nothing out of the ordinary that could be seen as a trigger.

‘The breakdown of her relationship appears to have been the most significant issue in her life.’

After the tragedy neighbours living near to the family’s three bedroom semi-detached home described the couple and their boy as ‘a great family’ and Jenson’s headteacher paid tribute to a ‘perfect child’.

Despite dying side-by-side Ms Sillett, whose family described as a ‘devoted Mum’ was cremated in Colwyn Bay on December 14 2018.

Her son had been laid to rest a week earlier at Holy Trinity Church in Glossop where hundreds of mourners paid their respects to the little boy.

Concluding that Ms Sillett committed suicide and unlawfully killed her son Derbyshire Assistant Coroner Emma Serano said Ms Sillett’s note made it clear she had tried to carry out her plan the day before.

‘But Jenson became frightened so this was abandoned,’ she said.

‘The next day after leaving home they were seen at 1.40pm leaving McDonalds, she sent a last message to John Spellman at 3.20, a last photo was taken at 3.49pm.

‘We don’t know exactly what time events unfolded but at some time Emma took him out of the car, tied him to herself, then put rocks in the rucksack she was wearing and also put rocks in the pockets of his jacket and they entered the reservoir together.’

The coroner said given the detail of the notes and the events of the previous day she was satisfied Ms Sillett had intended to kill herself and her son.

Addressing the families in court she added: ‘I simply do not have the words to express what I would like to express to you.’

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article then you can call the Samaritans on 116 123, alternatively you can visit the website at by clicking here.       

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