Woman who killed vulnerable mother gets life sentence

Keeley Barnard

A WOMAN who strangled her own Alzheimers-suffering mother to death was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday and will serve a minimum of 18 years.
Keeley Barnard, 52, was found guilty of murdering her 70-year-old mother Margaret Sims by a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court following a week-long trial.
The pair had been staying at the home of Mrs Sims’ youngest daughter Amanda Hollocks in Stanford-le-Hope on the night of Saturday, 19 August 2017, and had been sharing a bed. Mrs Sims was pronounced dead by paramedics during the early hours of 20 August.
The court heard Barnard was at her sister and brother-in-law’s home, following alleged relationship issues she was having with her husband.
The jury also heard pathologist Dr Virginia Fitzpatrick-Swallow, who conducted a postmortem to determine the cause of death, say?Mrs Sims had been strangled to death, with cause of death as compression of the neck caused by strangulation with use of one or two hands.
On passing sentence, Judge Patricia Lynch said: “The only person who will know what happened in that bedroom is you, and it is only you who will know why your ailing mother lost her life that evening.
“What your mother needed from you was love and attention. She was wholly incapable of defending herself and was completely at your mercy.
“This is a heinous offence and the jury have found you guilty of the death of your mother and rejected your defence.”
When delivering the sentence, Judge Lynch started at a minimum term of 15 years, but increased this due to the vulnerability of Mrs Sims.
She added: “Your mother was particularly vulnerable because of her age and disability. In my view that is the only factor I take into account, which increases the minimum time spent in custody. Her vulnerability is hardly mitigated by a lack of premeditation.”
During the trial, the jury heard from the prosecution that Barnard, from Chelmsford, had been drinking on the night of 19 August and had initially raised the alarm to her sister and brother-in-law when Mrs Sims had stopped breathing, telling them that her mother had suddenly died. Barnard had told police officers that she found her with a pillow over her head that her mother had put there herself.
Barnard was subsequently arrested on suspicion of murder that afternoon.