TRAGEDY BOY - Exclusive pictures of boy killed by mum

PUBLISHED: 16:54 10 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:46 23 August 2010

POIGNANT pictures of tragic James Taylor have been released days after his mother admitted killing him. The images of the 11-year-old at his first school emerged as Jennifer Taylor, 45, of Knights Croft, New Ash Green, pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Sh

POIGNANT pictures of tragic James Taylor have been released days after his mother admitted killing him.

The images of the 11-year-old at his first school emerged as Jennifer Taylor, 45, of Knights Croft, New Ash Green, pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

She sobbed in the dock at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday, six months after James was found drowned at their home with traces of drugs in his body.

A former pupil at £2,245-a-term private primary Steephill School, Castle Hill, Fawkham, he moved to Wilmington Grammar School for Boys last autumn.

Steephill School headteacher Caroline Birtwell, 52, led tributes to the tragic youngster as neighbours of his mentally-ill mother told the Reporter she needs help not punishment.

She said: "I knew Jennifer as a parent. She kept herself to herself. She was just a nice lady who clearly loved her son very much. James was a wonderful, happy boy and you can clearly see that in the school photographs.

"I have talked to a lot of the parents of children James was at school with and everybody I have spoken to has said that knowing how much she doted on him she clearly wasn't herself when she committed this act and everybody just hopes she manages to recover.

"We held an assembly for James and that was attended by children in the school and his peers while he was at this school. They had an opportunity to share their memories of James. It was a chance for everybody to think about the lovely boy that he was.

"The thing people were talking about most of all was his sense of humour. They talked a lot about how he was so very helpful and always there for everybody. A lot of people also remembered how, when he played football, he would wear red football boots. Generally he was remembered as a nice young man who was helpful and worked very hard.

"He took part in drama at school. He played the part of the undertaker in Oliver in the school play in his final year and made a huge success of that."

James Taylor was found dead by police at their family home on December 2 last year.

They also found Mrs Taylor, who is thought to have attempted suicide. She was hospitalised after being found in a critical condition. A week later she was arrested and charged with his murder.

A post-mortem carried out in March revealed the youngster had drowned. Traces of drugs were also found in his body.

During Monday's court appearance, Taylor wore a black t-shirt and trousers with a gold crucifix around her neck as she stood in the dock flanked by a team of mental health workers.

She pleaded not guilty to murder in March this year but the charge was dropped by the Crown on Monday when she admitted manslaughter. Judge Andrew Patience QC said he was satisfied she was suffering from a mental disorder and accepted her plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The court heard that she is so distressed by the killing she has been unable to speak about it.

Defence lawyer Sarah Forshaw QC said: "We the legal team have not been able to discuss the particulars of the incident at all. It causes obvious problems."

It was also decided that Mrs Taylor will be excused from attending court when the details of the case will be revealed prior to sentencing.

This week neighbours talked of a kind and caring mother who deserved help not punishment through the courts.

Neighbour Jan Hadfield, 55, an accountant, said: "It's a relief to me. I don't think she had any intention of doing it. The whole thing is really sad. She was a nice lady, a little bit shy and reserved but nice and friendly. I hope she gets the help she needs after this tragedy."

Charlotte Clark, 18, a Longfield Academy student and neighbour, added: "We all feel sorry for her and the family. If someone is that distressed to go to those lengths it is just so tragic. You just wish someone would have noticed and helped.

"People were saying 'I wish we could have done something' rather than blaming her and saying 'how could someone have done that?'

"I just hope she gets the help she needs. It's probably one of the most horrible things that can happen to a person. She needs help not punishment, losing her son is her punishment."

Ben Sommer, 16, a student at Wrotham School, would sometimes play football with James on the sports field near their houses.

He said: "It has had quite a big effect on the community. We were more shocked than anything. I played football with James once or twice with my mates. He was really nice.

"She was a nice, polite lady. She obviously loved her son more than anything. She played football and tennis with him. It's just so tragic. To do that to her son I really feel for her."

Fiona Cottam, head teacher at Wilmington Grammar School for Boys, said: "This is obviously a very sad case. The loss of life and the devastating impact on all concerned will be felt forever. Our thoughts remain with James and his family at this difficult time."

Speculation that Mrs Taylor killed her son, whose wealthy Egyptian father lives abroad, after his dad stopped funding the private school fees, was dismissed by Mrs Birtwell.

She added: "They didn't have any trouble paying the school fees.

"He left the school naturally after growing older and went to grammar school which is what her ambition was for him.

"She always fought very hard and worked very hard to do that and was successful in getting him a place at Wilmington Grammar School. And as far as I know she was quite happy with that.

"He left here in July and all this happened much later.

"Whether there were any financial problems I really don't know, there may well have been, but certainly when James was here the fees were paid and there wasn't any problem about that at all."

The case was adjourned until full psychiatric reports can be completed.

Judge Patience ordered Mrs Taylor to remain in custody at the Trevor Gibbens Unit in Maidstone, where she is receiving psychiatric treatment, until she is sentenced on July 20.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Gravesend Reporter. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Gravesend Reporter