18:34 AEST Fri Mar 18 2011
By Margaret Scheikowski
The mother (C) of convicted killer Keli Lane wept while telling a judge of her daughter's suffering
The mother of convicted baby killer Keli Lane wept while telling a judge of the pain suffered by her daughter and granddaughter during their jail visits.
"I saw two very distressed people who just love each other so much," said Sandra Lane, while her daughter Keli cried in the dock of the NSW Supreme Court on Friday.
She was giving evidence at the sentencing hearing of Lane, who was found guilty last December of murdering her second baby, Tegan, on September 14, 1996, after they left a Sydney hospital and before she went to a wedding.
The 35-year-old former water polo champion, who had two terminations as a teenager, kept three later pregnancies and births secret.
She adopted out her first and third babies, while she retained custody of the fourth child. No trace of Tegan has been found.
Sandra Lane said the fourth child had become withdrawn and quiet since her mother went into custody; she kept asking when her mum would she come home.
Keli Lane's friend Simone Tamanaha spoke of the strong bond and love between Lane and her daughter, adding the youngster "was not the same kid any more".
The girl asked questions such as: "Do you think my mum will come home, will I be able to live with my mum again?" said Ms Tamanaha, as she also broke down.
Dr Jeremy Thompson told the judge he found Lane to be "a very balanced, excellent mother" to her fourth child.
The GP visited Lane at her home in November 2004 and found her to be "very distraught and upset", saying journalists and police investigators were giving her a hard time.
She told him about her sporting ability, about being brought up in a competitive family and community, and about people expecting a lot of her, the GP said.
He said that deep inside, Lane wanted something else and she ended up getting pregnant a number of times.
Dr Thompson told the court that when he asked Lane if she had killed Tegan, she replied: "No, no, I could never do that" and became very emotional.
In his sentencing submissions, defence barrister Keith Chapple, SC, rejected a crown contention that Lane intended to kill Tegan, rather than cause her serious harm, and that the crime was pre-meditated.
He said the judge could find it had been "a momentary, instantaneous decision", resulting from panic or lack of perceived options.
Mr Chapple submitted the murder was "towards the lower end of seriousness for this type of offence" and referred to matters peculiar to the case.
"It is a very unusual case ... a fall from grace. The publicity has been horrific," he said.
"Her life has been laid bare."
Referring to his difficult sentencing exercise, Justice Anthony Whealy said that for all he knew, Lane could have abandoned Tegan and just let her die, rather than physically killing her.
"You can put a baby in a dumpster and leave it there. No one would ever find it," he commented.
But crown prosector Mark Tedeschi QC said the case had been put to the jury on the basis that Lane murdered Tegan sometime during the three hours after she left the hospital.
Lane is due to be sentenced on April 15.
The defence tendered 42 character references, including one from Lane's ex-husband, who is the father of her fourth child.
"Even though we are no longer married, I respect Keli as an individual, a friend and most importantly as a mother," he wrote.
"The bond that exists between Keli and my daughter is one I very much admire and respect, and am extremely saddened that my daughter can no longer experience this."
Lane's father, retired policeman Robert Lane, wrote, "Keli was a wonderful child and young adult who only brought love, happiness and prestige to our family".
"My wife and I have great difficulty in coming to grips with the position Keli now finds herself.
"We continue to support her in any way we can."