Two half siblings were sentenced to life imprisonment at Sheffield Crown Court, serving a minimum of 35 years, after murdering their two sons and the attempted murder of their remaining four children.
Sarah Barrass, 35, and Brandon Machin, 39, strangled their sons Tristan and Blake Barrass, 13 and 14, at Gregg House Road, Shiregreen earlier in May.
The pair pleaded guilty at a previous trial to murder, conspiracy to murder all six of their children, including Blake and Tristan, and five counts of attempted murder.
The court heard how Barrass told her children: “I gave you life, I can take it away.”
The pair made the plan to kill their children as Barrass became afraid they would be taken into care, prosecutor Kama Melly QC told the court.
The court heard that they tried to poison their children the night before by forcing them to take ADHD medication, expecting them to die overnight.
After that attempt failed, Barrass searched online the next morning for other ways to kill her children, while shortly afterwards, Machin arrived at the property.
The pair then killed their two children, as Barrass strangled Tristan with the cord from her dressing gown while Machin strangled Blake with his bare hands. Afterwards, they covered the boys’ heads with plastic bags to ensure their certain death, the court was told.
In a statement read out in court, Barrass had told the police in an interview that she had strangled Tristan for up to three minutes and that he was shouting “Stop!” while thrashing his arms and legs.
Blake entered the room witnessing the murder of his brother and shouted: “Mum’s killing Tristan!” before Machin then strangled him.
The two then attempted to drown another one of their children in the bath but were unsuccessful, the court was told.
Barrass then locked herself with the four surviving children in the bedroom and phoned the police.
The surviving four children cannot be named for legal reasons.
The court heard how Barrass had asked the local authority for help with the children, and had texted a friend to say: “I’ve thought of every possible solution to this mess.
“I love my kids too much to kill them. I can’t put them into care for the same reason.”
Press conference after the sentencing today at Sheffield Crown Court
Defending Barrass, Bryan Cox QC, said: “Nothing we can say is intended to diminish the terrible acts for which Sarah Barrass, the mother of these children, must bear responsibility” and that she was so “profoundly damaged by her childhood.”
He added: “The defendant was desperate to prevent her children being taken into care.
“She couldn’t cope with the prospect of them being removed.”
At the sentencing, Judge Goss addressed the couple and said: “You repeatedly tried to drown them, despite the children resistance. They pleaded for you to stop but you didn’t.
“You thought the children were better off dead than in care, and you helped with that.”
Following the sentencing, Matthew Saunders, a family friend of the two boys, said: “We are relieved justice has been served, but it should never have come to this.”
“We cannot put into words the pain and emptiness we feel.”
An exclusive breaking story from Michael Ekman and Audra Lee.