Lawyer says depressed mom who drowned Alberta children killed herself in Australia

EDMONTON – A woman who drowned her two children in a bathtub in rural Alberta three years ago was still fragile and depressed when she killed herself earlier this week in Australia, says her lawyer.

Peter Royal said Allyson McConnell’s mother phoned him early Wednesday to tell him about the suicide and factors that possibly contributed to her desperate state.

She had attended the christening of a friend’s new baby a few days before the body of a 35-year-old woman believed to be McConnell was found at the bottom of a bridge in West Gosford, north of Sydney.

Royal said McConnell became emotional and despondent after the baby’s church service.

“I guess it brought back thoughts of her own children’s christenings.”

He added that he’s positive the dead woman is McConnell because her identification was found with the body.

McConnell was also recently upset about the Alberta Crown’s upcoming appeal of her manslaughter conviction and sentence, said Royal. The case was to be in court again on Oct. 30.

McConnell had admitted at trial that she drowned her two-year-old son, Connor, and his 10-month old brother, Jayden, in a bathtub in the family’s home in Millet, south of Edmonton, in February 2010.

Her Canadian husband, Curtis McConnell, found the children’s lifeless bodies in the water. Police had also phoned him to say his wife had driven to Edmonton, jumped off a freeway overpass and was in hospital.

The couple had been involved in an acrimonious divorce and custody fight, and the Crown argued at trial that Allyson McConnell planned to kill the children as revenge against her husband.

But the judge in the case sided with McConnell, ruling there was little evidence of whether the depressed and suicidal woman meant to kill her boys. Court also heard McConnell had a history of depression and suicide attempts that began when her father got her pregnant when she was 15.

McConnell, originally charged with second-degree murder, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years. But she was given credit for pretrial custody and served an additional 15 months in a psychiatric hospital.

She was deported to her native Australia in April.

At the time, Alberta’s justice minister railed in public about how McConnell’s sentence was too lenient.

Jonathan Denis also said justice hadn’t been served and he would push to have the woman brought back to Canada if the courts decided to increase her sentence.

“The attorney general making comments didn’t help things with such a fragile person,” said Royal. “These are comments she was aware of.”

Royal also filed a complaint against Denis, a lawyer, with the Law Society of Alberta, suggesting his comments were out of bounds and violated the impartiality of his job. The complaint has yet to be heard.

Denis issued a written statement Wednesday: “If this is indeed Ms. McConnell, then it marks a disturbing end to what has been a very tragic situation and is certainly not the outcome anyone wished for.”

Royal agreed McConnell’s case is tragic and said it will likely stay with him forever.

While it appeared the woman was feeling better, she was still seeing a doctor, he said.

And she had been under constant suicide watch while in custody in Alberta but, when she went home, she moved in with her mother, not a secure health facility, he said.

He called her death inevitable.

“There was some, I hate to say, foreshadowing of this from her own evidence at the trial,” Royal said.

McConnell testified that she would likely spend the rest of her life trying to kill herself because she didn’t want to get well.

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