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I didn't kill my child, says Exeter mother from jail

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 21, 2013

By Tom Bevan

  • Lesley Dunford says she will never take responsibility for her daughter's death

  • Lesley Dunford and husband, Wayne, in happier times

A mother jailed for killing her three-year-old daughter has spoken publicly for the first time to say she will never accept the jury's guilty verdict.

Lesley Dunford is serving a seven-year sentence after being found guilty last year of smothering little Lucy.

Her death in 2004 came just six months after the couple's son Harley died in a suspected cot death.

During her sentencing, Dunford, of Windermere Close, Exeter, was told she had turned from "carer to killer" by inflicting fatal injuries on the toddler, who was found with bruising under the skin by her shoulders and neck.

But the 35-year-old has revealed in a letter to the Press that she will never take responsibility for her daughter's death.

"I am not going to put my hands up to something I have not done even though confessing to it may make my life easier," she wrote . "But I have not done anything."

In the letter, penned from her cell in a prison in the North of England, Dunford also issued a desperate plea to be moved closer to her husband Wayne after the prospects of an appeal were dashed.

Dunford had been given a date to transfer prisons back in April but believes she is being held back as she has not completed the victim awareness course.

"I have done as much of victim awareness as I can," she added. "I haven't been able to complete all of it because they can't class Lucy as a victim because I am not admitting to the offence that I am in jail for, which is manslaughter."

Dunford was first arrested two days after Lucy's death, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to press charges, a decision based largely on conflicting reports from pathologists. One post-mortem examination said the toddler died from suffocation, while another concluded she had inhaled vomit as a result of an infection.

But during an inquest in 2009 the coroner dramatically halted proceedings because he said evidence he had heard had aroused suspicion. He asked the police to re-examine the case, which led to Dunford's arrest at her Exeter home. After a six-and-a-half week trial she was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter.

In her letter she said that being convicted for a crime she continues to deny has left her severely depressed and committing self-harm.

"When I am feeling down and fed up, Wayne does as well," she added. "Not a day goes by when I am not worrying about him and vice-versa and this jail is doing nothing to help me get through it in here.

"All I want is to move so I can have regular visits, which is one of the main things that keep me going. I still have another two-and-a-half years to do before my first parole hearing in December 2015, which is also causing my depression and self-harm to be bad, as a lot of people don't get their first parole.

"It tears me apart to be in here so far from Wayne."

Mr Dunford, 55, said he was standing by his wife despite her conviction. The couple have been together for 14 years.

He said: "I am still 100 per cent behind her. Everyone who knows me knows that.

"If I had thought Leslie had done something to my kids I would have been the first to grass her up. She is not able to keep anything from me. If I had the slightest suspicion she did what they said she did, I would want her done for it."

He added: "The tag of child killer is an awful one to carry around but the longer it goes the more it disappears. The important thing is that anyone who knows me and Lesley knows she is not capable of that."

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