On January 27, 2010, Fiona Donnison of Lightwater, Surrey, United Kingdom, murdered her two young children, Elise, two, and Harry, three, by suffocating them. She then stuffed their lifeless bodies into duffel bags in the trunk of her car outside the family home.
Ms Donnison and her ex-boyfriend, Paul Donnison, had recently separated and rather than share custody with Mr Donnison, Ms Donnison murdered their children. She has been sentenced to a minimum of 32 years in prison.
The prosecution, based on, psychological evaluations, determined that Ms Donnison was not “simply mad, but a narcissist with an over-developed sense of self-importance who planned the killings.”
The strange, but all too familiar details of the case.
Mr and Ms Donnison never married, yet share the same last name. This is because she legally changed her name without telling Mr Donnison after she suddenly moved out of their shared home 5 months before the double murder.
According to The Guardian, Ms Donnison used the two young children:
. . .as the “ultimate pawns” by killing them to hurt Paul Donnison in the most extreme way possible, Lewes crown court heard. . .
. . . The defendant, who sat through much of the evidence with her head bowed, chose to stay in the cells as the jury returned its unanimous verdict.
Did you know a murderer can opt out of her or his own sentencing? I didn’t. To deny the children’s father and other loved ones their day in court to see justice done is is the ultimate “F” you/act of contempt and selfishness. The Guardian:
The four-week trial heard that Fiona Donnison, who was in a distressed state with superficial cuts to her wrists when she went to the police station, was not able to tell officers where the children were. A search of the area soon located them in the boot of her Nissan car, which was parked in Mill Close, Heathfield, around the corner from Meadowside, the former family home.
Typical. The half-assed, staged parasuicidal gesture, so she could try to claim temporary insanity. Why don’t these women and their male counterparts ever commit suicide before they murder their children?
Because it’s not about protecting the children, as many of these sick twists claim, nor is it about their “fragile” mental health, depression or personality disorders. It’s about trying to claim/maintain victim status even after they murder their children with premeditation, purpose and malice. Claiming to be the victim after you murder your children is beyond balls (pardon my language).
The children these women murder in cold blood and the fathers they rob of their children are the real victims. Shame on these women and shame on the defense attorneys and members of the media who portray women like Fiona Donnison and her ilk as victims. More from The Guardian:
Prosecutors believe the reason [Fiona Donnison’s car] was parked there and not on the driveway of the large detached house was because, after killing the children, she had planned to kill their father, with evidence suggesting she had laid in wait for him armed with two kitchen knives.
Jurors were told that, on 1 September 2009, the day after returning from a family holiday to Ireland, Paul Donnison came home from work to find the defendant had moved out, taking Harry and Elise and her two teenage sons from her first marriage with her.
She did not tell him where she had gone but he later discovered she had moved into a house in Lightwater, Surrey, 100 yards from where his first wife lived with their own two teenage children, despite having no connections to the area.
He and the defendant later reconciled and made plans to move in together again but the defendant remained jealous of Alison Shimmens, a former schoolfriend Paul Donnison had started dating [during his estrangement from Fiona].
Fiona Donnison went to court on 26 January to make an appeal for an occupancy order for Meadowside to force Paul Donnison to move out but was told it would not be immediate.
She was also trying to stop him seeing the children, and made what was thought to be a false account to police of him assaulting her, and lying to the director of their nursery school that he was not allowed to pick them up. However, prosecutors believe she began to realise her attempts to make Paul Donnison’s life difficult were not succeeding, so she plotted to kill their children.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Any allegation of assault, rape or abuse made by a woman against a man with whom she’s currently embroiled in a divorce and/or custody case should be immediately suspect—especially if there’s no concrete evidence and the accused doesn’t have a prior history of violence. Furthermore, women who have been shown to make false allegations as part of a divorce/custody dispute should be automatically flagged by the courts and police as a high risk for committing violence against their children and their exes.
Perhaps this seems extreme. Most women who make false allegations of abuse against their husbands to gain the advantage in a divorce and custody case don’t murder their children. However, most women who murder their children during a custody dispute also make false DV allegations against their exes, refuse visitation and engage in parental alienation.
During the trial, Mr Donnison testified about his ex’s attempts to punish and control him through their children. From The Guardian:
As he gave evidence, Paul Donnison did not look at his former partner as he told jurors he was left in “complete disbelief” when he returned home from work five months before the children’s deaths to find she had moved out without warning, taking them with her.
He said he lived a “nightmare” during the ensuing months, as at first she would not tell him where Harry and Elise were, and then told him he could see them only on her terms.
Paul Donnison said he and his former partner attempted reconciliations on several occasions but she would suddenly change her mind.
If he arrived at the house she had rented in Lightwater, Surrey, any later than arranged she would not let him in and would often cancel without explanation, he said.
“It was blowing hot and cold,” he said. “If I did what I was told, things were fine; if I didn’t, I was told I wouldn’t see the children, and so on and so forth. As long as she had control of the children, she had control of me.”
He admitted he had begun seeing an old school friend, Alison Shimmens, but said their friendship was strictly platonic until he knew his relationship with Fiona Donnison was definitely over.
“As long as she had control of the children, she had control of me.” There’s the explanation of just about everything pertaining to high-conflict custody cases. Additionally, the Crazy usually escalates when the ex-husband/boyfriend recouples or is suspected of dating. From The Guardian:
The court heard that one evening when he was visiting Shimmens at her home in Woking, Surrey, Fiona Donnison turned up without warning and demanded he went to her house. She then told him she had made a big mistake and wanted him back.
“She was controlling things and I had reached the point where you can’t keep being manipulated and moved around and told what to do,” Paul Donnison said.
“I felt like Fiona was playing a game with me. If I didn’t do what she said or if she didn’t have control of me, the children were the key.”
But he said that for the sake of being able to see his children he again tried to make things work, even though from day to day “it was extremely difficult to know which person you would be talking to”.
On New Year’s Eve he briefly left the house in the early evening and when he returned, Donnison would not let him in the house, despite freezing cold weather.
Asked by prosecutor Christine Laing QC about his reaction to the fact that Fiona Donnison’s new home in Lightwater, an area she had no previous links with, was 100 yards from the house his ex-wife lived in with her new husband, he said: “I was absolutely stunned.
“I was stunned that Fiona moved there, but bearing in mind it made Fiona the focus of attention. It clearly disturbed me and I know it disturbed my ex-wife.”
He said that from the start of their relationship 10 years ago, “I was always aware that she was very manipulative”.
He added: “When she wanted to she could be wonderful.” She was a “great hostess” and a “wonderful cook”, he said.
Sometimes she could be provocative, antagonistic and confrontational, he said. “She basically wanted the best of everything at all times and almost from the start the house wasn’t good enough, my income wasn’t good enough, the holidays we had weren’t good enough.” She referred to herself as MBW – or main breadwinner – he added.
He said Fiona Donnison lived beyond her means and despite having a well-paid job in the City, told him she had amassed debts of up to £50,000 when they decided to move in together.
How many fathers experience the exact same thing when trying to end their relationships with the abusive mothers of their children? It’s unconscionable that so many women are allowed to get away with these behaviors, aided and abetted by family court.
To add insult to injury, prior to the children’s murders, Mr Donnison warned the police about his concerns for his children’s safety in their mother’s care. The police were also asked to check on the children of fellow child murderer Kelli Lynn Murphy when Mr Murphy had concerns. The result of both fathers’ legitimate concerns and requests for police intervention: murdered children.
A Donnison family friend disclosed:
“[Fiona] demonstrated personal traits” that alarmed Mr Donnison. “He said to my husband and I that he was very concerned about the safety of the children in her hands.”
“I think she had probably demonstrated personal traits that gave him cause to be concerned. He did say to me that he told police about the children’s safety but I don’t know under what circumstances he told them.”
Fortunately, most cases don’t end in homicide; unfortunately, many father and child relationships are destroyed because of the pathological malice of high-conflict and/or personality disordered mothers.
Mothers murdering their children to punish/hurt their ex-partners is nothing new in high-conflict divorce and custody cases. The Theresa Riggi, Kelli Lynn Murphy, Bonnie Hoult, Elaine Campione, Allyson McConnell, and Donna Fitchett cases come to mind, just to name a few.
Aside from the horror and tragedy of this case, also noteworthy is that Mr Paul Donnison publicly spoke out and stated that the courts treated him like the criminal and treated his ex, you know, the woman who murdered her own children, with “kid gloves.”
Speaking outside the court following his former partner’s sentencing, Mr Donnison, 48, said that in contrast to the way he was treated, he felt the defendant was treated with “kid gloves” and did not even have to give evidence herself.
He said: “I attended court as often as I was able to, but often felt that it was I that was on trial. Despite killing my children, she didn’t even have the courage to take to the stand to explain herself.
“Despite admitting to the killings and being detained, she seemed to have more rights and considerations than I had. If I had not lived through this personally then I would not have believed the experience that I and my family have had to endure. It is the system itself. It is wrong, it is biased in favour of the criminal and it is clearly unfair.”
He spoke minutes after the judge, Mr Justice Nicol, revoked an order that had previously prevented the reporting of the fact prosecutors wanted Donnison also to be tried for the murder of her first child with Mr Donnison, a daughter named Mia who died of suspected cot death in April 2004, when aged nine months.
However in a hearing last December, it was decided there was not enough evidence to charge her.
One wonders if Mr Donnison meant to say that the justice system treats women with kid gloves rather than criminals. Based on many accounts, male child killers are rarely treated with kid gloves; they’re typically thrown to the wolves.
On a related note, a group in the UK called the Prison Reform Trust is currently working on a project to eliminate women’s prisons altogether in England and proposes to send convicted women criminals to outpatient clinics instead of jail.
Look out Surrey! If Prison Reform Trust has their way, Fiona Donnison and her ilk could soon be living in a group home near you.
My heartfelt condolences to Mr Donnison and his family.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Coaching individuals through high-conflict divorce and custody cases is also an area of expertise. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for more information.
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