Ex-science teacher ‘researched suicide methods then drowned her daughter in the bath’

The last words of a daughter who was ‘drowned by her mother after she became paranoid that her husband was having an affair’ have been revealed. 

Bethan Colebourn told her mother Claire Colebourn: ‘I don’t want a bath mummy’ before being ‘drowned’, a court heard today.  

Colebourn today sobbed in the dock at Winchester Crown Court as the prosecutor told how she wrongly thought her husband Michael, a company director, was having an affair with a work colleague.

The 36-year-old searched suicide methods shortly before allegedly drowning little Bethan in the early hours of the morning at their £400,000 family home in Hampshire.

Prosecutor Kerry Maylin told jurors the three-year-old’s harrowing final words were revealed by Claire Colebourn as she was interviewed by police.

Bethan (pictured above) was described as a ‘fun-loving’ little girl by her family

Claire Colebourn believed that her husband Michael Colebourn (pictured above) was having an affair

Claire Colebourn believed that her husband Michael Colebourn (pictured above) was having an affair

Police at the scene in Fordingbridge after Claire Colebourn 'drowned her daughter Bethan'

Police at the scene in Fordingbridge after Claire Colebourn ‘drowned her daughter Bethan’

Winchester Crown Court, also heard Colebourn told police her daughter ‘sadly had complete trust’ in her and did not fight back.

It was heard she told police she held her daughter’s head face down under the water with her left hand while Bethan’s body ‘jumped’.

Crying could be heard from the public gallery, where family members were sat, as the heartbreaking details of Colebourn’s final police interview, which took place on April 18 last year, were revealed.

Mr Colebourn said that after their separation, his wife put a post on Facebook and sent an email to his work accusing him of having an affair with a colleague.

He said she admitted the claim was not true and agreed to take the post down.

Ms Maylin told the court: ‘Claire Colebourn said ‘I did it because I did not want her to go anywhere near her father’.

Tributes which were left outside of the property in Hampshire after the death of Bethan

Tributes which were left outside of the property in Hampshire after the death of Bethan

‘She told officers Bethan said ‘I don’t want a bath mummy, I don’t want a bath’.

‘Claire added, ‘I drowned my own daughter. She did not fight. Her hands and arms were tucked under her body. I think, sadly, she had complete trust in me’. Claire told the officers ‘I did what I did for Bethan’.’   

The prosecutor continued: ‘She said she held her hand to hold her under the water, she said she did it because ‘I didn’t want her to go anywhere near her father’.

‘She confirmed when Bethan came out of the water she was already dead. She said she took her to the downstairs bedroom, wrapped her under her arm and then injected herself with insulin.’ She continued that Colebourn said ‘her only aim was to keep Bethan safe’.

Miss Maylin added that Colebourn claimed ‘a phone call saying she was harassing Michael tipped her over the edge and Bethan was upset about Thursday’s visit’.

She told the court the defendant said: ‘I knew how she slept and I didn’t want her to be in any pain.’

Three-year-old Bethan's family said she would be 'dearly missed'. Pictured above police outside the family home

Three-year-old Bethan’s family said she would be ‘dearly missed’. Pictured above police outside the family home 

Describing the incident, Colebourn added: ‘She kept coming back to me, she put her hand on my cheeks, told me she loved me and said, ‘I do not want a bath, I do not want a bath’.

‘I waited for the bath to fill, I have never been so stressed in my life. I drowned my own daughter, I drowned my own daughter.’

Miss Maylin added that Colebourn said her daughter did not struggle and she added: ‘She didn’t fight against my hand. I think, very sadly, she had complete trust in me.’ 

Michael Colebourn today fought back tears as he the court the last time he had seen his three year old daughter she had been ‘happy’ and kissed him goodbye.

The 38-year-old told jurors that just days later he went to the house he used to share with wife Claire in Fordingbridge to take Bethan out but got no answer after knocking on the door.

Tragically, unbeknown to him, Bethan was already lying dead inside. Simply thinking he had misunderstood arrangements on October 19, 2017, he left and returned to work.

Holding back tears as he took to the witness stand today, Mr Colebourn said: ‘Claire was not happy I was seeing Bethan on October 15, but eventually she allowed me to have her for the day.

‘It was the first time I was to have Bethan on my own [after splitting up].

‘Claire was not very keen to give Bethan to me and started again to ask why I was doing this and trying to prevent me from taking Bethan, which also upset Bethan.

‘I dropped Bethan home about 5pm. Bethan kissed and hugged me, then went into the house. She was happy, she was pleased to see the dog. She was fine.

‘I was due to see Bethan on October 19. I could see the dog in the kitchen when I went to the house, but he was shut in the kitchen. I thought maybe I had made a mistake and I went back to work in the end.’

Police parked outside of the £400,000 converted bungalow in Hampshire, where tributes were also left 

Police parked outside of the £400,000 converted bungalow in Hampshire, where tributes were also left 

The court heard hours later at 5pm police tried to call Mr Colebourn on his mobile, but he ignored it as it was an unknown number.

He was woken late that night when police came to his home to tell him the devastating news that his daughter had died. 

Bethan was rushed to Salisbury District Hospital, Wiltshire, on October 19 last year, after emergency services were called to the converted bungalow in Fordingbridge.

However, the ‘fun-loving, adventurous’ little girl was tragically pronounced dead at hospital.

The court heard that Colebourn had endured a painful divorce from her husband Michael, after she became convinced he was having an affair with a woman named Kelly, a financial director at their company, Ms Justice Johannah Cutts heard. 

She filed for divorce on the grounds that he worked long hours, was away on business, controlled the household finances and was not interested in bringing up Bethan. He said he ‘was not happy’ with the final claim. 

He said that after Bethan was born his wife became “obsessed” by finding out about his previous partner, also called Claire, from before they had met 16 years previously at university.

Mr Colebourn said his wife had not liked him being friends on Facebook with this ex and had attempted to arrange to visit places where she might be. 

In the weeks following their separation in September 2017, the mother sent emotionally charged emails to Mr Colebourn’s work colleagues, accusing him of cheating and controlling the family’s finances. 

Ms Maylin told the jury that on October 10 Mrs Colebourn had a new IT system installed in her home, following her husband’s departure, after she became paranoid he was continuing to snoop and monitor her through the previous set up.

The jury was told that in the week approaching her daughter’s death she began to search increasingly disturbing and morbid websites, while her daughter remained at pre-school, the prosecutor said. 

Mrs Colebourn sobbed in the dock as the prosecutor listed websites which discussed suicide and depression. 

Ms Maylin told the court how she was searching for dating websites, relationship counselling and her previous husband on the day before her daughter’s death. 

Ms Justice Cutts heard how Colebourn even drove to her husband’s colleague, Kelly and Mr Colebourn’s house in an effort to track him down, but was unaware he had since moved into a new flat – and had instructed his solicitor to keep his new address from his ex-wife.

Shortly before her daughter’s death Colebourn was chillingly searching for euthanasia, the jury heard and on October 15, just days before her death, three-year-old Bethan enjoyed a day out with her father, having lunch together and kissing and hugging goodbye.

For Mr Colebourn, it would be the last time he saw his daughter alive, Ms Maylin said.

The jury of six men and six women at Winchester Crown Court heard that a post mortem examination later appeared to confirm the cause of Bethan’s death as drowning by submersion in water. 

The trial is being heard at Winchester Crown Court (pictured above) where Claire Colebourn has denied the single charge of murder

The trial is being heard at Winchester Crown Court (pictured above) where Claire Colebourn has denied the single charge of murder

Ms Justice Cutts heard that Colebourn wrote a brief suicide note to her mother, sent a rambling and disturbing letter to police and requested changes to her will to her solicitor – before she drowned her daughter during the early hours in October 19. 

Prosecutor Ms Maylin said that Colebourn, a diabetic, self-administered a large amount of insulin in a suicide attempt while her daughter lay dead in a downstairs bedroom – followed by another similar dose the following morning.

The jury was told she had taken a potentially fatal measure of medication and Colebourn later confessed to officers she attempted to hang herself and stab herself before passing in and out of consciousness in the upstairs bedroom. 

A postal worker, an IT specialist and Mr Colebourn himself attended the address during the day but Colebourn only answered the door to the postwoman to accept a package. The post woman noticed she was disheveled and still in her nightwear.

However, the prosecutor described the tragic moment Colebourn’s mother, Janet Fildew, finally discovered her three-year-old granddaughter lying cold, damp and unresponsive in the afternoon following her death.

Ms Maylin said: ‘Janet had a key and entered the house. It was quiet and she went into the downstairs bedroom and found her granddaughter ‘asleep’ on the bed. She also went to find Claire and found her in the bedroom upstairs. She described her daughter as being in a diabetic hypo.

‘She went to get some jam and rubbed it around her mouth and went to find some glucose. She knew she was making lots of noise but was aware Bethan was downstairs.

‘She went to check on Bethan and entered to check her… and found that she was cold and completely unresponsive. She made a call at 18:40 to the ambulance service and requested their assistance – and was really distressed.

‘She made efforts for a resuscitation following instructions she was provided with because of what had been reported. The police were dispatched and arrived and took over resuscitation attempts. They could not find a pulse in Bethan and her body was rigid as if rigor mortis had already set in.’

Colebourn, whose husband Michael works as chief executive officer of luxury marine interior company Trimline, had previously broken down in tears at her hearing in July 2018.

At the time of Bethan’s death heartbroken Mr Colebourn paid tribute to his daughter.

In a tribute, released by the family, they said: ‘Family and friends are devastated at our tragic loss.

‘Bethan brought so much happiness and joy to so many people’s lives.

‘Bethan was a fun loving, adventurous and caring young girl who will be dearly missed.

‘She will be in our hearts and minds forever.’

On 26 July 2018 Judge Keith Cutler remanded Coleburn in custody. The court heard the trial, which will be heard by a high court judge, will last up to three weeks.

Judge Cutler said: ‘This is the case of Claire Colebourn, who faces the charge of murder of Bethan Colebourn, her three-year-old daughter.

‘She has pleaded not guilty.

‘This is a terrible and tragic case, which needs full investigation and I completely support the work being done to contact a number of experts.

‘It has been decided that this case should be tried before a high court judge, but the availability is very limited.

‘In the circumstances, we have a full slot for this trial beginning March 5, 2019.’  

The former science teacher denies the single charge of murder.

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