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The Globe and Mail

Shock, grief after Canadian woman living in Britain questioned in children's death

A Police forensics officer leaves a house in Wandsworth, south London, on Thursday May 10, 2012, after two babies were found dead late Wednesday night.

Clive Gee/The Associated Press

A sense of "helplessness and horror," in the words of one banker, has spread among the tight-knit community of Canadians who work in London's financial district as details emerge about the death of Jeff Boots's children.

Mr. Boots, 34, an investment banker from Kitchener, Ont., who works for RBC Royal Bank in London, returned home from work on Wednesday to discover his 14-month-old daughter, Lily Sky, and his newborn son, Tej, lifeless, allegedly smothered by their mother.

Neighbours described scenes of anguish as Mr. Boots discovered the bodies, with his wife apparently dazed nearby, and cried out in despair at the loss of his young family.

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"His voice was wailing: 'My lovely son, my beautiful daughter. They have gone.' Then he said: 'Help me, help me, help me,' " a next-door neighbour told reporters.

His wife, Felicia Boots, was led out of the house by police with cuts to her wrists. According to the British press, police are investigating whether Ms. Boots might have been suffering from post-partum depression and whether she attempted to take her own life.

Paramedics reached the home at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, along with about 40 police and medical staff. They were unable to revive the children. Ms. Boots, appearing shocked or sedated, was led away without handcuffs.

She was being questioned and on Friday was arrested on suspicion of murder. In Britain, an arrest is an early step in a criminal investigation, making a person a suspect rather than a witness, but falls short of a criminal charge. Police requested a 24-hour extension until Saturday morning before laying charges or releasing her. They are not seeking any other suspects.

Ms. Boots, also 34, is a hairdresser who had started a jewellery-design firm called Pink Tangerine; friends describe her as an enthusiastic, athletic and well-adjusted woman.

"None of us can believe this. They were a really cool young couple – if it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone," said a former colleague, who asked not to be identified, who worked with Mr. Boots last year at RBC. "He's lost everything. I wish we could do something for him."

The couple had recently moved into their new semi-detached house in Wandsworth, a popular district for young families in south London sometimes known as "nappy valley." The modest white-stucco house is valued at $2-million, which makes it a middle-class house in London's heated property market.

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Colleagues who had dined with the couple in recent months described Ms. Boots as having appeared stressed and uncomfortable.

"She didn't look happy," neighbour Howard Jones, 86, told the Daily Telegraph on Friday. "She wasn't her normal self by any means. She was certainly struggling again after the birth. That and the move, I think it was far, far too much for her."

Mr. Boots's father, the retired Wilfrid Laurier University geographer Barry Boots, flew to London with his wife, Christine, to comfort their distraught son.

Scotland Yard said that Ms. Boots had been medically examined and deemed fit for questioning. Police issued a terse statement Friday: "Inquiries are under way after the death of two children in Wandsworth. Post-mortem examinations will take place in due course. Next of kin are aware."

Post-partum depression, in which the physical and mental effects of ending a pregnancy and having a newborn baby cause a psychological breakdown, affects as many as one in twenty new mothers during the first months after birth. While it usually manifests itself in feelings of guilt, inadequacy, isolation, anxiety and exhaustion, a more extreme version known as post-partum psychosis affects perhaps one in a thousand mothers and can lead to delusions, extreme behaviour and sometimes murder.

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About the Author
International-Affairs Columnist

Doug Saunders writes the Globe and Mail's international-affairs column, and also serves as the paper's online opinion and debate editor. He has been a writer with the Globe since 1995, and has extensive experience as a foreign correspondent, having run the Globe's foreign bureaus in Los Angeles and London.He was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and educated in Toronto. More

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