UK Mother Set Free After Killing Son with Autism

Yvonne Freaney

Yvonne Freaney

Following up on a story we reported on in May, Yvonne Freaney, a UK mother who killed her 11-year-old son with severe autism, has been allowed to walk free by Justice Wyn Williams this past week. This comes after initially being cleared of murder and convicted of a lesser charge of manslaughter. In his ruling, Williams claimed that Freaney had been "punished enough" and released her on a supervised order.

As part of her release, Freaney will be required to live in a residence approved by the courts and is not allowed to have unsupervised contact with any child under eighteen years of age.

Freaney strangled and killed her son, Glen, back in May of 2010 with a coat belt because she “was frightened about who would look after him" after she was gone. Upon killing her son, Freaney attempted to take her own life by cutting her wrists, but was unsuccessful. She was described as a sad, defeated woman who suffered from physical abuse at the hands of her husband, Mark, as well as a psychological disorder.

Although this case is tragic on many levels, one thing is clear — Freaney is now a free woman because of a sympathetic judge and jury, despite the fact that she murdered a child. 

Some have speculated that had her child not been severely autistic, she would have been convicted of murder. If true, then this is a blatant example of the devaluation of human life related to someone with special needs and Justice Williams should be ashamed of himself.

In learning of all the details of this story, it was truly sad and tragic for all involved. However, sympathy should never trump justice and clearly, this is what happened.

In addition to telling Freaney that she had been "punished enough," Judge Williams also said:

“The only sensible and credible explanation is that your state of mind was truly abnormal….You cared for [Glen] with the best of your ability, day in and day out. He was very demanding but you never let that deflect from putting his best interests above those of your own.”

That is just a stunning statement in light of what happened.

Based on Williams’ comments and actions, he obviously deems the killing of a child acceptable behavior for parents who are overwhelmed while caring for a child with autism. What a terrible precedent and what a terrible injustice for Glen.

8 Responses to UK Mother Set Free After Killing Son with Autism

  1. Susan Duke says:

    All I can say is that this is not for anyone to judge who does not have a severely autistic child!! Don’t even think about judging this woman until you’ve walked a mile in her shoes! I have 3 autistic children and my 12 year old is severe. He’s getting extremely aggressive and believe me, every day that we all make it through alive is by the grace of God! It’s tragic for the mother and the child on many levels. I sympathize and empathize with her, truly!

  2. Susan says:

    She had already spent 2 years in jail awaiting trial. It’s seems a psychiatric facility might have been in order as a compromise between more prison and freedom.

    I still despair that no one helped her before she got to that point of no return.

  3. Wendy says:

    I agree with you Susan Duke. I too, have a non verbal severeley Autisic son, with ADHD, and im sure undiagosed Bi-pölar. He is 17. I have a 15 yr old son also, whom has ADD. I get zero help. My Autistic son is violent, aggressive, cant go to school, puts his hand through glass, self harms, etc etc. The only hope I have is I put him on a waiting list for a home. He is top priority due to my deteriorating health. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, just had Cervical spine surgery in Feb and had a titanium plate put on 3 levels and discs put in, and have had lumbar spine surgery and need another, am on Chemotherapy, once a week, every week since December, on hormone replacement therapy, have GERD..well, the list goes on and on, and stress causes all flareups. My son deserves better than what I can offer him. I can barely move and have zero energy, but still manage to dance with him, and swim with him in our pool. I just wish there was more help, so I didnt have to put him in a home. Where was this lady help????

  4. Stuart says:

    Your article prompted me to comment highlighting the issue of mental health issues in criminal cases. Few Jurors would find it a problem excusing a defendant’s actions if it were shown that he or she was suffering from a severe (and permanent or long standing) mental health problem. Yet it becomes a problem for Jurors when a defendant is less obviously traumatised by conditions such as Bipolar disorder or levels of anxiety. The line between acceptable culpability and mitigation by reason of poor mental well being is a fine and shifting one.

    And this was what the criminal case against Yvonne Fearney exposed.
    Your article didn’t really mention the many mitigating factors that lead to Fearney being set free – including sexual abuse as a child, a husband who was often violent towards her, mental health issues and other desperate factors besides. I do believe the Judge and Jury got it absolutely right and I think the majority of people who read the story think so too.

    But it isn’t always this way and many people have been sent to prison despite better than fair reason to suspect the defendant was suffering some form mental health issue when they did what they did.

    With all this in mind, I struggle to understand what you mean when you say that sympathy shouldn’t trump justice. What justice you seek here: a guilty verdict for someone suffering (or who did suffer) an abnormality of the mind? I agree with you that her killing her ‘difficult’ autistic son may have swayed the jury toward a not guilty verdict. However, for me the issue wasn’t about Glen being autistic or otherwise. It was about judging Fearney’s state of mind.

    I know most parents caring for autistic children who wouldn’t do what Yvonne Fearney did, but we’re not all made of the same stuff. Our background, our finances; if we’ve been subject to violence or not; our physiological makeup, our brain chemistry – There are a thousand things that makes us what we are and directs us to think and to act as we do. It comes together to create uncertain outcomes for us all. Knowing this I wouldn’t want to rush to Judge Yvonne Fearney.

  5. @Susan Duke

    Yes, but there’s a huge difference between being annoyed with your child and murdering your child, in case you didn’t realize that.

  6. Stuart says:

    I do realise that Alek. I don’t think you read my comment.

  7. Lola M says:

    I read the story and find it very sad. I have to say I don’t agree with what the mother did. She could have gotten help or asked for it. I think killing her child is disturbing. He couldn’t help the fact he was born with Autism. Reading the article the woman needed to be on medication for her own disorder and have counselling in terms of dealing with the abuse issue. I believe she could have put her son with a relative or in a home. I don’t think bringing harm to him is an answer. I think they went too easy on her for what she did. She may have been given this child for a specific reason but she certainly did not deserve him.

  8. Susan Duke, you are… Sick. Just sick. Do I have less of a right to live because of MY Autism, ODD, OCD, and other disorders!? You’re actually taking the mother and the judges side on this. I have Aspergers, a form of high functioning Autism, coupled with several other physical and mental disorders. You are… An awful person. Just horrid. You don’t deserve your children, not after saying you sympathize with the mother on this one. You are an absolutely awful person. Should I be murdered because of my autism, because of my difference!? You are sick. You are just sick. I HATE people like you. I hope your children are taken away from you. I have every right to be on this planet, as do any other autistics out there. Practically saying that the parent was justified BECAUSE THE CHILD WAS AUTISTIC IS JUST… GROTESQUE. I despise people like you. Also, you say the only reason your own children are allowed to live is by the grace of ‘god’!? Child Services needs to be called on your ass you crazy…. Piece of… AGH! You are threatening your childrens life in that post right there! By the way, there is no god. If there was, people like you wouldn’t exist. If there was, I wouldn’t have been sexually abused in the hospital where I was sent for two and a half months. Yeah, that’s right. The nurses and doctors who were supposed to help me, sexually abused me!

    Autistics need support and recognition. We do NOT, I repeat, do NOT DESERVE THIS BULLCRAP. We do not deserve death, ridicule, and abuse! We deserve life, not murder and torture! You are a sick, sick woman and you need to be reported, and your children need to be removed from your ‘care’!

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