A former nurse who was plagued with devastating post-natal depression killed her two young sons before committing suicide because she felt she could not be ‘the perfect mother’.
Susan Talby, 41, became convinced that Joseph, four, and two-year-old Paul were suffering from a range of allergies, diseases and illnesses, an inquest heard yesterday.
She felt unable to protect them from the imaginary conditions and fell deeper and deeper into clinical depression.
Torment behind the smiles: Susan Talby wrongly thought two-year-old Paul had cystic fibrosis
She eventually smothered the boys before hanging herself at the family home in the upmarket Cambridgeshire village of Werrington, near Peterborough, while her husband Richard, 42, was away on a business trip.
The inquest which began in Peterborough yesterday heard from NHS health visitor Melanie Sneath, who said Mrs Talby ‘thought she wasn’t good enough’.
She added: ‘Having been a paediatric nurse she had high expectations of herself.
Son Joseph: Imaginary ailments
‘She had come to the conclusion that there was something seriously wrong with Paul and thought it was cystic fibrosis.
‘She asked me to look at him and there was nothing wrong as far as I could see. She acknowledged that there was no sign of it.
‘Susan said that Richard had told her she was going mad. She felt she wasn’t a good mother and said she should be “perfect”.
‘She said that giving birth was “barbaric”. She explained that she was taking medication for anxiety and was worried as it meant she would have to stop breastfeeding.
‘I didn’t carry out a post-natal depression test because she was showing clear signs [of the condition].’
Mr and Mrs Talby married in August 1999 and Joseph was born in April 2002. Paul followed in September 2004.
Mrs Talby was admitted to the Edith Cavell Hospital in Peterborough in April 2005 suffering from delusional psychotic depression.
Doctors discovered that she had an obsessional neurosis about her children’s health and worried that they were suffering from a range of fictitious illnesses.
The inquest heard that the unusual condition was triggered by post-natal depression and Mrs Talby was assigned NHS professionals to help her cope.
Health visitor Susan Binner, who visited Mrs Talby four times, told the inquest that Paul’s difficult birth triggered the depression.
‘We identified that her traumatic childbirth with Paul, blood loss and her refusal to have a transfusion and fears of Joseph not relating [to her] properly triggered her illness,’ she said.
‘On my last visit things seemed entirely normal. We discussed potential triggers for a relapse. ‘If she had told me about irrational fears about the children’s health then I would have followed it up.’
Another health visitor, Maggie Ambrose, visited Mrs Talby in February 2007 – less than a week before she died.
She admitted failing to read a note in her file which warned her patient had experienced suicidal tendencies.
‘Susan was worried about the children’s sight so I booked them a sight test,’ she said.
‘Susan was low and more subdued in the last contact I had with her. She was usually more active. I just knew that she was anxious but usually it would dissolve spontaneously. ‘She thought Joseph was allergic to milk but he wasn’t. As far as I was aware Susan had been admitted to [hospital] for anxiety about the babies’ health.
‘There was a note from the GP in the back of her file but I didn’t see it and wasn’t told about it. Susan thought Paul’s feet and hands were going blue.’
Mr Talby, a sales executive for a plastics manufacturer, left on a business trip on February 28, 2007.
He returned home the following day to find the bodies of his family.
A post mortem revealed his wife died from compression to the neck, consistent with hanging, and the children died from asphyxia.
The inquest is expected to last for three days.
It has taken four years to be heard because of the amount of evidence needed, sources said.