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Torment of mother who admits she drowned son aged 11 over cash crisis

By Christian Gysin

A mother wept yesterday as she admitted drugging and drowning her 11-year-old son after the boy's absent father stopped sending her money.

Jennifer Taylor pleaded guilty to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility after schoolboy James was found dead on December 2 last year.

She had taken a suspected drugs overdose and was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

It has since emerged that James's father is a wealthy Egyptian who works abroad and is not a UK resident.

Days after James died at the home he shared with his mother in New Ash Green, near Dartford, Kent, friends and neighbours told how Taylor had been suffering from financial hardship and had told them the boy's father had stopped sending money.

James had been withdrawn from his private school and was being educated at a state grammar school.

Yesterday, 44-year-old Taylor, dressed in a black T-shirt and trousers and wearing a gold crucifix, sobbed as she stood before Judge Andrew Patience at Maidstone Crown Court.

The court heard that while a postmortem examination revealed James had died of drowning, traces of drugs were also found in his body.

His mother entered a not guilty plea to a charge of murder at an earlier hearing and appeared yesterday for just ten minutes.

Prosecutor Eleanor Laws told the court that three psychiatrists concluded Taylor had diminished responsibility at the time of the youngster's death.

Defence QC Sarah Forshaw revealed that she had been unable to speak to Taylor about the killing, explaining: 'It is a curious feature of this case that we - the legal team - have not been able to discuss the particulars of the incident at all. It causes obvious problems.'

Taylor will be excused attending the next court hearing on July 20 when the facts of the tragic case are due to be outlined.

The judge confirmed that he had read reports that Taylor was suffering from a mental disorder and told her: 'If you do not wish to be present to hear the facts put before you, you need not attend, but you must be back for passing of sentence.' Sentencing will take place at a date to be set after the July hearing.

James was a pupil at Steephill, a £2,245-a-term private primary school in the Kent village of Fawkham, before he joined Wilmington Grammar School near Dartford.

At the time of his death Caroline Birtwell, the headteacher at his former school, said: 'James was a lovely boy who was always very happy. He had a fabulous sense of humour, and he was so bright and able.

'He was very popular with his peers. He played football for the school and he had a love of drama, appearing in several of our school plays.'

A neighbour said: 'James moved to Wilmington because Jenny could no longer afford for him to go to a public school.'

Another neighbour, 52-year-old Jan Hadfield, added: 'James was so polite, such a good, well-behaved boy.

'Jenny told me James's father was an Egyptian who was very high up in his work and lived abroad. It is such a tragedy.' A third neighbour, Jeff Topp, 60, added: 'James was a really lovely kid.

'You could see him a mile off because he had very bushy black hair which was so distinctive.

'He was extremely polite, loved playing football and had a trampoline in his garden.

'Sometimes his ball would come over the garden fence and he would always politely ask for it back.

'Jenny was a loving mother and doted on James. There was no man in her life so he was everything to her.'

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