A MOTHER sobbed in the dock as a court heard allegations that she murdered her three-year-old daughter by holding her in a bath full of water after searching the internet for “how to kill by drowning”.
Prosecutor Kerry Maylin told Winchester Crown Court that Claire Colebourn (37) had spent the days preceding her daughter’s death on the 19th October 2017 visiting suicide websites after her husband Michael walked out on her the previous month.
She had also, the jury was told, searched dating sites including one called “Muddy Matches” following her marriage split, the month before her daughter Bethan died at the family home in Whitsbury Road, Fordingbridge.
Mrs Maylin said Colebourn, who denies murder, had become “obsessed” that her husband was having an affair with a work colleague at Southampton-based marine interior company Trimline, where he was chief executive.
In the weeks leading up to Bethan’s death, Colebourn had repeatedly searched suicide websites, entering terms like “death by drowning relatively painless”.
She had also looked up “someone drowns in a tub nearly every day” on Youtube, the jury was told.
On the day Bethan died Colebourn had asked her husband to visit her at the family home once their daughter was asleep.
He had refused and Colebourn, the court heard, told him in texts and phone calls that she wanted to cancel their divorce and give the marriage another go. He refused and asked his solicitors to tell his wife she could only contact him through them.
Mrs Maylin told the court: “You may think this was a pivotal moment in what was about to happen.”
She said Colebourn had spent the rest of the day looking up “Saint Mary’s church Fordingbridge” and “cemeteries in the New Forest”.
She emailed her own solicitors asking them to make changes to her will, including that she and Bethan should be cremated and their ashes scattered together.
She also texted her mother cancelling a phone call they were due to have the next morning at 5am. It was the next day, after being unable to raise her daughter that the defendant’s mother, Janet Fildew, rushed to the house and let herself in.
The prosecutor said Mrs Fildew saw Bethan on a bed in the downstairs bedroom and thought she was asleep. Her daughter was upstairs suffering from a diabetic episode so Mrs Fildew went to help her.
It was only later when she went to check on Bethan that she found her “lying cold and unresponsive”.
As the prosecutor described how Mrs Fildrew desperately tried to resuscitate her granddaughter, Colebourn put her head in her hands and wept.
Mrs Maylin said the defendant told paramedics at the scene she did not “remember” what had happened to her daughter.
She was arrested on suspicion of murder and taken to Southampton police station where she was detained under the Mental Health Act and moved to a psychiatric unit.
Later, the jury heard, Colebourn told various medical staff that her daughter had got up around 3am on the morning of 19th October and had got in bed with her mother, who later found her dead in her bed.
She also claimed that she had suffered a diabetic episode and that Bethan had accidentally drowned when she left her alone in the bathroom.
But Mrs Maylin told the court how Colebourn later admitted to police during an interview in April 2018 that she had drowned her daughter saying she had to “save” Bethan from her father.
Mrs Maylin said: “She told police Bethan’s life would have been ‘f***ed up’ without her and that ‘Bethan was devoted to me’.”
The prosecutor told the court that Colebourn went on to tell detectives: “I can’t be a liar, I can’t do it. Bethan drowned because I was there and I held her under the water.”
Mrs Maylin said that during the same interview Colebourn told police: “In my eyes I saved her. Everything was such a blur over those days.”
She reiterated that she thought that her husband had been having an affair and that she had tried to kill herself with a knife and by hanging.
Laying out the background to the case, Mrs Maylin told how Claire and Michael Colebourn had been together for 16 years and had tried for several years to have a baby, adding: “Bethan was a very much loved child.”
But by September 2017 Mr Colebourn believed the relationship had ended and he left the family home.
Mrs Maylin said the defendant had been “obsessed” that Michael was having an affair with his financial director, Kelly Butcher.
She had emailed the claims to his work colleagues, saying that her husband had “no interest” in Bethan and was not going to provide for them financially.
Colebourn also announced her marriage break-up to friends and family on Facebook posting: “FYI Michael Colebourn walked out on his family Thursday 17th September, we haven’t seen him since.
“He has been having an affair with his financial director at work and everything has been pre-planned. They want to corner the business and set up a new life together.”
The case continues.