A Canadian woman has been given a life sentence for murdering her nine year-old daughter shortly after the end of an acrimonious divorce.
Laura Coward, from the western province of Alberta, was arrested two days after Amber Lucius was reported missing. The girl’s body was found in a burnt-out SUV in a remote area. The girl had been given sleeping pills before the vehicle was set on fire.
The 50 year-old had told friends she was taking the girl stargazing. Instead she gave her daughter an overdose of the prescription pills, which she reportedly believed would be fatal. But an autopsy later revealed that Amber had actually died from inhaling the smoke and fumes of the burning truck.
Coward left a note in the truck reading “Help me. It was an accident. Locked keys in.”
Coward had recently lost custody of her daughter to ex-husband Duane following a lengthy dispute. At her trial in Calgary she pled guilty to second degree murder after initially being charged with murder in the first degree.
She told the court:
“I want to say to the father, my family, friends that I’m responsible for my choices and I beg for their forgiveness and I plead for your mercy.”
Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Justice Scott Brooker said she appeared to have been motivated by a desire for revenge against her ex-husband. Despite her apparent remorse, the Judge told her that her sentence must reflect the“disgust and outrage” of society.
“Amber was completely vulnerable to and trusting of her mother. It was the ultimate betrayal and breach of trust for Ms. Coward to kill her daughter.”
She will not be eligible for parole for 18 years.
Following the sentencing Duane Lucius released a statement saying: “Since the moment Amber was born, she was the light of my life. She was energetic, talkative and full of joy. I will never get to watch my daughter grow up, but I know she would have done great in life.”
“No sentence will do justice for what has happened to Amber. As a father, I have had to bury my child and nothing will bring her back. I can only hope that other children are not being used as bargaining chips in a divorce or used to hurt the other parent.”
He would miss his daughter ever day for the rest of his life he concluded.
“I will never forget her.”
Prosecutor Mac Vomberg said the case was one of the most disturbing he had encountered in his 30-year career.