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Mother killed her young children and then asked for the death penalty, jury told

Veronique John, from Stoke-on-Trent, is alleged to have killed seven-year-old Elizabeth John and her brother Ethan, aged 11, at their home.

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Elizabeth and Ethan John

A mother “erupted” into violence and killed her two children, aged seven and 11, with a knife because she did not want her husband to have them, a jury has been told.

Veronique John allegedly stabbed her son Ethan John more than 20 times and inflicted brain damage on her daughter Elizabeth John, before heading to a car wash in a dressing gown to stab her partner Nathan John in the stomach.

A trial-of-facts hearing at Nottingham Crown Court was told John then returned home, dialled 999 and told the operator: “I am calling to report I just killed my two kids.”

The charity shop worker is then alleged to have told police after they arrived at her home in Stoke-on-Trent on June 11 last year: “If you have a gun shoot me. I am not a monster – he was going to take them from me.”

It was also alleged that John, said to be boiling with rage after being arrested for assaulting her husband while suspecting him of having an affair, later told interviewing officers: “I didn’t want my husband to get them”.

She said: “It’s something I was thinking about for a long time – just kill myself and the kids. Unless you guys are offering me the death penalty I have nothing else to say.

“I did it because I love my children – to protect the children. If there’s any possible way I could be put to death, I would like that. I mean it 100%.”

During the Crown’s opening of the case against John, who was born on the Caribbean island of St Vincent, prosecutor Peter Grieves-Smith said her “rage was boiling just under the surface” a day after she was arrested for assaulting her husband with a piece of wood.

Addressing jurors on Monday, Mr Grieves-Smith said John killed her children hours after making a “chilling” internet search asking: “Can a foreigner be charged with murder in the UK?”

John, of Flax Street, Stoke, is charged with two counts of murder, attempted murder and an alternative count of wounding, but has been ruled unfit to plead.

Double murder incident
Officers near John’s home in June last year (Stephanie Wareham/PA)

The 50-year-old, who is being treated at a secure hospital, was not in the dock to hear the Crown’s opening speech.

The court heard John and her husband had experienced profound difficulties in their relationship, with her not wanting him to have an internet-enabled phone.

On June 9 last year, the jury was told John became angry and struck her husband with a wooden slat while their children were getting ready for bed.

Mr John then made a complaint to police, who arrested John at her home on the night of June 10 and interviewed her under caution, opting to issue her with a community resolution notice.

Shortly after 2pm on June 11, John went to the car wash where her husband had stayed the night and stabbed him in the stomach, the court heard.

Recounting what Mr John said in a subsequent 999 call, Mr Grieves-Smith said: “My wife just came to the car wash and stabbed me – she said that she had just killed the kids.”

The prosecutor added: “What happened on the 11th of June didn’t come out of the blue.

“Tenson grew in the days before. That day she just erupted, killed her children and attacked Nathan.”

Double murder incident
Flowers left at the scene on Flax Street (Stephanie Wareham/PA)

Ethan was pronounced dead after being found in a bedroom with a 17cm-long neck wound, while Elizabeth was discovered in the living room, having suffered head trauma and “three areas of sharp force” injury, including to her stomach.

A few minutes before John walked to the car wash, the jury was told a neighbour heard “high-pitched screaming and crying that lasted for a little while”.

Before the case was opened by the prosecution, trial judge Mr Justice Choudhury explained that the jurors’ task during the expected six-day trial would be to find whether she did the acts charged against her.

The judge said: “This trial is slightly unusual – the defendant has been found to be under a disability.

“She is unable to participate in the trial in any meaningful sense. Your task is to decide whether the defendant did the acts of unlawfully inflicting injuries on and killing Ethan and Elizabeth which led to their deaths, and unlawfully inflicting injuries to Mr John.”

During his opening remarks, the judge also said such cases naturally gave rise to strong feelings and urged the jury to strive for an objective assessment of the evidence at all times.

The trial continues.

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