A HEARTBROKEN father told how he desperately missed “being a daddy” as his wife was jailed for life at Winchester Crown Court for drowning their three-year old daughter in the bath.
Claire Colebourn (36) was ordered by Mrs Justice Johannah Cutts to serve a minimum of 18 years after rejecting her claims that she was “saving” daughter Bethan from her dad, telling her “the only person from whom Bethan needed to be protected from was her own mother”.
In a statement released after the sentencing yesterday (Monday), her husband Michael (38) said: “I desperately miss being a daddy – we would have such great times together; Bethan’s laugh was infectious and her energy was endless.
“There is not a second in the day that goes by that I am not thinking about her. Bethan was my world and being her daddy made me so proud. I miss her so much.”
Former biology teacher Colebourn, of Whitsbury Road, Fordingbridge, had become suicidal after her husband left her just weeks before the killing saying their 16-year long relationship was over.
Colebourn, who wept continuously in the dock during Monday’s hearing, became obsessed with the idea that he was having an affair with a work colleague at Southampton-based marine company Trimline, where he was chief executive. The court heard this was not true.
In the days leading up to her daughter’s death, Colebourn, who had pleaded not guilty to murder, had searched the internet using the term “How to kill by drowning.” She also looked up “Someone drowns in a bathtub every day” on YouTube.
On 19th October 2017, the defendant – who claimed in court that she would “walk to the ends of the Earth” for her daughter – woke Bethan at 3am in the morning, ran a bath and held her down in the water until she was dead.
The little girl’s tragic last words were “I don’t want a bath mummy”, a jury heard during a week-long trial.
When Colebourn confessed to police six months later that she had drowned Bethan, she said her daughter had not struggled because “sadly, my little girl trusted me completely”.
During her trial, Colebourn admitted killing Bethan. She told the court that the little girl had been “unhappy” seeing her father again after the couple split, and she feared Bethan would suffer “emotional distress” if he continued to be part of her life.
But giving evidence against his wife, Mr Colebourn said Bethan had been “smiling and laughing” when he saw her on three occasions before her death.
The court had also heard that on the night before she was killed he had FaceTimed his daughter, who he had seen “happy and running around the house.”
In his statement, released by police, Mr Colebourn hit out at his wife’s claims, which included her saying in a letter she wrote just hours before killing Bethan that her daughter “did not deserve a life being around him and his awful family”.
The devastated father, who had revealed in court how his wife had struggled to have their only child, said: “My beautiful daughter has been taken from me in such a cold and callous manner at the very hands of the one other person who should have protected her and kept her safe.
“The loss of Bethan has had a huge impact on so many people: family, friends, and all who knew her. She was such a special little girl – bringing so much joy to all their lives.
“Throughout the criminal trial, I and all those who loved Bethan have had to endure the heartbreak of listening to her last moments.
“I have also had to suffer endless unfounded allegations and lies made against me, with no opportunity to respond.”
Sentencing Colebourn, Mrs Justice Cutts said that Mr Colebourn should not feel he contributed to Bethan’s death by refusing to see his wife at their former marital home the night before she murdered their daughter.
Speaking about the fact Colebourn had begged her husband to give their marriage a second chance, she told her: “I wish to make it absolutely clear that he was in no way responsible for what you were later to do. It was your anger and feeling of rejection which in my view finalised your decision to kill Bethan and yourself.”
The judge added that she believed Colebourn had murdered Bethan because “you could not bear to be parted from her. I am also of the view that you wanted to deny your husband the chance to bring Bethan up in your absence.”
She also rejected her defence that she was mentally ill at the time of Bethan’s murder. Colebourn, who has been held at a secure psychiatric unit in Oxford since the killing, had been examined by five different medical experts.
Only one of them, a forensic psychologist, had concluded that she did not know what she was doing when she murdered Bethan.
Mrs Justice Cutts told Colebourn: “There is no evidence to afford you a defence of diminished responsibility. I do not accept his view that you were in a transient psychotic state at the time of the killing.”
She described Colebourn’s description of Bethan’s killing as “harrowing”.
She said: “You put her to bed as usual around 7pm and you set your alarm for 2am. In those intervening hours you could have turned back from this decision. You could have sought help. You did not.
“Instead you woke your child up, ignored her when she said she did not want a bath, put her in the bath and held her under the water. How frightening that must have been for her.”
Colebourn, who is diabetic, had tried to commit suicide immediately after the killing by taking a massive dose of insulin. She was found by her mother later that day. She also discovered Bethan’s body laid out on a bed, her hair still wet.
The judge described Bethan as “clearly a beautiful little girl who was full of life. I have read in the impact statements of her endless energy and infectious laughter, of her delight in speeding around on her bike and walking the dog.”
She told Colebourn: “She had everything to live for. Those who loved her were rightly excited for her future. No sentence imposed upon you today can take away their grief and heartache at their loss.”
The NSPCC released a statement after the sentencing in which they said: “This is a desperately sad case in which a young child lost her life in the most tragic of circumstances.
“Bethan would have looked to her mother for love and protection. Sadly, Colebourn failed her daughter in the worst possible way.”
Colebourn has already served a year on remand and will have that deducted from her sentence.