A MOTHER has been jailed for 16 years after pleading guilty to killing her three young children at their home in Edinburgh amid a bitter custody dispute.
Theresa Riggi (47), originally from California, admitted in March that she had repeatedly stabbed her eight-year-old twins, Austin and Gianluca, and their sister Cecilia (5) at their home in Slateford, Edinburgh, last August.
She then allegedly tried to cover up their deaths with a gas explosion, before trying to kill herself by leaping out of their second-floor apartment. Riggi's estranged husband, Pasquale Riggi, an oil industry engineer in Aberdeen, Scotland, had gone to court in a battle over access to the children.
Passing sentence at the high court in Glasgow, Lord Bracadale told Riggi she had subjected her children to "a truly disturbing degree of violence" and was guilty of a "ghastly and grotesque" act.
Riggi had "a genuine but abnormal and possessive love" for her children, the judge said.
In March, the court had heard from the defence lawyer, Donald Findlay QC, that Riggi suffered from narcissistic, paranoid and hysterical personality disorders.
She was separated from her husband soon after Cecilia was born. But psychiatrists did not believe Riggi was mentally ill, Lord Bracadale said. "The result of these acts is a devastating family tragedy. The father of the children . . . and wider family have been left utterly bereft by the loss." The prosecution had earlier accepted Riggi's plea of culpable homicide on the basis of diminished responsibility.
Lord Bracadale said this plea and her mental state did not absolve her of blame. "The effect of the diminished responsibility is to reduce these crimes from what would have been exceptionally wicked crimes of murder to what are still very serious crimes of culpable homicide. The number and nature of the stab wounds to each child is indicative of a truly disturbing degree of violence, which, in order to bring about the deaths of three children, must have been sustained over a significant period of time."
Outside court, Mr Riggi said, in a statement read by David Sinclair, of Victim Support Scotland, his children's deaths would leave an "indelible mark on the rest of his life". He added: "They were such wonderful, energetic, bright and happy children."
Lord Bracadale said Riggi would have got 18 years, but he had taken into account her plea.
He said she would be deported when the term ended and put on the child-protection register.
( Guardian service)