A mother tried to kill her two sons by poisoning them after feeling ‘hopeless’ and ‘powerless’.
Lisa Walmsley, 52, has been jailed for attempted murder after she lit disposable barbecues in her two adult sons’ bedrooms in a bid to kill them though carbon monoxide poisoning.
Her plan was thwarted after one of her children alerted police.
The two men have ‘forgiven’ their mother, who had been suffering from mental health problems for some time and also planned to kill herself.
Walmsley, from Stockport, who was described as otherwise being an ‘excellent and loving mother’, was jailed for five years and four months as details of the ‘very sad’ case were revealed for the first time.
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Manchester Crown Court was told she had sought help and medication after experiencing a number of ‘challenging’ events in her life, including the death and ill health of family members.
She separated from her husband in 2010, leaving her to bring up her two sons, one of whom suffered mental health problems of his own.
Walmsley had previously researched methods of killing her children, after she ‘simply decided it would be better if they all died’, prosecutor Rob Hall said.
Walmsley and her sons – then aged 19 and 21 – had spent New Year’s Day together at their home on Radnormere Drive, Cheadle Hulme.
The day was ‘relatively normal’, prosecutors said.
One of her sons got up after midnight to make some toast, while the other was watching a film.
Walmsley was ‘pacing’ in the kitchen and seemed ‘anxious’, Mr Hall said.
She then went into their bedrooms and lit the disposable barbecues.
After one of the burners was discovered, Walmsley tried to blame the smoke it had created on burnt toast.
One son ran off and left the house ‘in fear’ after recalling a ‘threat’ his mother had made years before – that she would ‘gas herself and the children’.
He called his father, who advised him to call the police.
The father called Walmsley, who ‘denied everything’.
She told her other son to get in her BMW and she began to drive around the estate.
Walmsley had lit three further barbecues in the car, in another bid to kill her child.
Shortly after she stopped in a car park, and her son asked ‘what was going on’.
Walmsley didn’t answer.
But she then said: “Why don’t we kill ourselves tonight?”
Mr Hall said he initially agreed, but in retrospect what he wanted was his mother’s help and support for his own problems.
They remained in the car and discussed suicide.
Her son’s lungs started burning and he began coughing a lot.
He got out of the car for some fresh air, while Walmsley remained inside.
After getting back in he began coughing again.
Mr Hall said the barbecues either went out, or Walmsley extinguished them.
She then went to Tesco in Stockport, to see if she could buy a different kind of burner which would be more effective, but the store was closed.
Greater Manchester court cases
Her son said he wanted to go home, but Walmsley said they couldn’t.
At 1am, the police arrived at the family home and found her other son.
The fire service attended and found high carbon monoxide levels in the house.
Police carried out a ‘controlled stop’ on Walmsley’s car at 4.20am, and she was arrested.
“It is fair to say that they have in effect forgiven their mother,” Mr Hall said of Walmsley’s two sons.
But her lawyer Richard Simons said their relationship has been damaged ‘irrevocably’.
Mr Simons said Walmsley has suffered from ‘real and complex’ mental health problems for a considerable amount of time.
He said a doctor concluded that her crimes were a ‘direct manifestation of her severe depressive illness’.
Walmsley, described as a ‘genuine’, ‘funny’ and ‘kind’ person, had ‘relentlessly put her boys first’ and ‘dedicated her life’ to provide them with a positive upbringing.
The court was told a doctor found that Walmsley perceived their situation to be ‘so hopeless and distressing’ that she would ‘protect them from further suffering’.
She felt ‘powerless to protect herself or them in any other way’, the court heard.
She feels ‘regret and shame’ for her actions and is profoundly contrite and remorseful, the court was told.
Walmsley admitted two counts of attempted murder at a previous hearing.
Sentencing, Judge Patrick Field QC told her: “You placed lit disposable barbecues under your sons’ beds at home, intending that they would succumb to carbon monoxide fumes in their sleep.
“It is a disturbing feature of this case that those attempts to kill your sons were not spontaneous.
“You decided upon carbon monoxide poisoning and you set about planning their deaths.
“You felt hopeless, powerless and overwhelmed.
“The picture is itself overwhelmingly one of despair.”
The judge said he was able to reduce Walmsley’s sentence as her mental health problems meant she was less blameworthy.
‘These two you men have shown immeasurable strength’
Following the hearing, Detective Constable Laura Burgess of GMP’s Stockport Division said: “I would like to pay tribute to the victims’ immense bravery throughout the court process.
“Since that awful day, these two men have shown immeasurable strength, not only in trying to process what they have been through, but also in helping see justice done.
“Their lives have been changed forever by this.
“We wish them well and hope that this result offers a small piece of comfort as they move forward from today.”