Family ‘living in fear’ after mother who killed five-year-old son released

The husband of a woman who killed their five-year-old son by setting alight the car he was in has said his family are living in fear after she was released from the care of mental health services.

Teresa Sheldon was detained under a hospital order in July 2015 after she pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility for the death of son Tommy.

He was injured in the blaze in his mother’s silver Ford Fiesta in Merdon Castle Lane, Hursley, Hampshire, in August 2014 and died a fortnight later in hospital.

His mother, from Dartford, Kent, also pleaded not guilty at Winchester Crown Court to the attempted murder of another person, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

Tommy Sheldon (Family handout/PA)
Tommy Sheldon (Family handout/PA)

Her husband, Ross Sheldon, said he had been made aware that Mrs Sheldon was released from care last month but his requests for safeguarding restrictions had been ignored by the health authorities responsible for her.

This comes despite the High Court judge, Mr Justice Dingemans, who sentenced Mrs Sheldon, warning that she would pose an ongoing risk to herself and Mr Sheldon’s family.

Mr Sheldon, from Southampton, told the PA news agency: “I feel angry, agitated and most importantly upset because my concern is for the welfare of my family – for all of the safeguarding agencies involved they have done nothing at all, which I am disgusted about.”

He wants Mrs Sheldon not to be allowed to reside in or visit Hampshire, particularly Southampton, not to contact Mr Sheldon’s family, for her to wear a tracking tag and for him to be provided with a recent photograph of her.

He added: “Because of Teresa’s mental state, which we know very little about, we don’t know what could be going through her mind. With Teresa being released you are going to be dealing with someone who doesn’t have much to live for.

“As the judge said at the crown court, she not only poses a risk to herself but others. You can imagine the anxiety that could bring upon anyone, I could go to my local Tesco and she could be in there and anything could happen.”

Ross Sheldon (Family handout/PA)
Ross Sheldon (Family handout/PA)

Julian Hendy, from the Hundred Families charity which supports victims of mental health homicides, said: “This is an immensely frustrating case.

“In court the judge went out of his way to record Mrs Sheldon remains a potential threat to her family, but since then we’ve had no real information about any concrete steps to support and protect them. They are vulnerable and need to be protected.

“Although there have been some assurances the authorities are aware of the case, many questions remain unanswered.

“We don’t know if there are any conditions on her release. We don’t know if there are any exclusion zones, and if so, how they will be monitored. We don’t know if she has to wear a tag. We don’t know about any safeguarding measures.

“We’ve been fighting for years to get some clarity. It almost seems as if there is a conspiracy of silence, for reasons which have never been made clear.

“All the efforts from state agencies appear to focus on supporting and protecting the perpetrator of this terrible crime – with little or no consideration for the real and lasting trauma of the victims.

“It really shouldn’t need saying in a modern democracy, but after such a terrible killing of an innocent young child, it is unacceptable to treat Mr Sheldon’s family with such a lack of compassion and concern. It’s just not right.”

Both the Department of Justice and Department of Health declined to comment, saying only that the hospital trust was responsible for arrangements after Mrs Sheldon’s release.

Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust – which cared for Mrs Sheldon at the Bracton Centre in Dartford – and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust – which is responsible for victim liaison in her case – both refused to comment.