TRAGIC Accrington mum Donna Hanson has been told she will not face charges over the sudden deaths of her two baby sons.
Police have decided not to prosecute the 26-year-old, who was arrested in January 2000 on suspicion of murdering three-month-old Toby and 10-month-old Ashley Woods.
The decision was taken after a review of all the relevant evidence by police and the Crown Prosecution Service, including written opinions from leading counsel.
A Lancashire Cons-tabulary spokesperson said: "The view of the CPS is that the evidence does not provide a realistic prospect of a conviction against Donna Hanson, and accordingly we have decided not to prefer any charge."
The news marks the end of a long-running police investigation into Miss Hanson, who endured four years of anguish as she was repeatedly interviewed over the deaths. But her ordeal may not yet be over.
The police spokesperson added: "The inquest into Toby's death will shortly resume. The police and CPS will consider any new evidence brought before the coroner and, if appropriate, re-review the matter."
Little Ashley died in December 1998 and a verdict of death by unascertained natural causes was recorded at an inquest. But when Toby died in similar circumstances nine months later, police began probing both deaths until July 2000, when they decided not to bring charges.
At the time, Miss Hanson, who lived with partner Robert Woods in Pendle Street, Accring-ton, spoke of her relief, saying: "It is heartbreaking that someone could think I would hurt my own children. I loved them and would never do that."
But the investigation was resumed in January 2002 in light of new evidence and has been under consideration by the CPS ever since.
The case drew parallels with those of Cheshire solicitor Sally Clark, whose conviction for murdering her two baby sons was quashed by the Court of Appeal, and Trupti Patel, who was cleared of murdering her three babies.
A CPS spokesperson said both cases would have had some bearing on the decision not to prosecute, adding: "We keep aware of all relevant cases and take these into account when assessing the evidence.
"It was a very protracted inquiry and there were a large number of experts involved."
Detective Inspector Jim Elston said: "The difficult and tragic circumstances behind this investigation affected both Toby and Ashley's family and the police officers involved in the inquiry.
"A large number of health and medical professionals had to be interviewed and expert opinion was sought throughout. A close working relationship was maintained with the CPS and counsel who advised in this case and the Constabulary fully accepts their decisions."
The inquest into Toby's death is listed for mention at Blackburn Coroner's Court on 12 August.
Diary of tragic events ...
December 1998 - Ashley Woods, 10 months, dies at Blackburn Royal Infirmary. He had been rushed to hospital the night before with breathing difficulties, having suffered fits in the weeks before he died.
March 1999 - Inquest into Ashley's death. Coroner Andre Rebello chooses not to record a verdict of cot death, adding: "We do not know how he died."
September 1999 - Toby Woods, three months, dies after short illness. Police start investigating.
December 1999 - Inquest into Toby's death has been adjourned twice. Police announce that they are to re-investigate Ashley's death.
January 2000 - Donna Hanson arrested and quizzed over both deaths.
May 2000 - Inquest into Toby's death adjourned again. CPS seeks written advice from leading counsel.
July 2000 - Donna Hanson told she will not face charges as there isn't enough evidence to justify a prosecution.
November 2000 - Plans are made to exhume Toby's body during a pre-inquest hearing. More medical experts get involved and couple's solicitor argues that inquest should not go ahead until all medical evidence is available.
January 2002 - Police say they are considering new evidence, thought to have come from a medical expert specially drafted into the investigation, and CPS says it will be closely examined. Inquest has been adjourned four more times.
November 2002 - Inquest told that key legal decision was due to be announced this month. Application made to the High Court for disclosure of documents in a bid to move the case forward.
January 2003 - Cheshire solicitor Sally Clark cleared of murdering her two babies. Court of Appeal hears that the chances of two cot deaths in the same family is 8,500 to one, and not 73 million to one as originally suggested.
February 2003 - Donna Hanson case to be reviewed following the Sally Clark appeal. CPS still considering documents.
August 2003 - Donna Hanson told she will not face charges.