A MUM who murdered her little girl after the breakdown of her marriage has been jailed for life.

Claire Colebourn will serve at least 18 years for the killing of three-year-old Bethan. The defendant drowned the tot in a bath at the family's home in Whitsbury Road, Fordingbridge.

Colebourn, a former science teacher, was convicted of murder on Friday after a trial at Winchester Crown Court. Jurors took less than three hours to return a unanimous verdict. Yesterday morning, she returned to the court to be sentenced.

Prosecutors said Colebourn hit "rock bottom" after her husband Michael ended their 16-year-relationship.

She woke their daughter Bethan in the early hours of October 19 2017 and drowned her. She then made multiple suicide attempts.

Colebourn was discovered by her mother about 14 hours later in a diabetic coma.

The defendant, dressed in a black jacket and wearing glasses, rubbed her temples with her hands, shook her head and looked at the floor as details of her crimes were detailed to the court. She did not react when handed the sentence.

Mrs Justice Johannah Cutts told the 36-year-old: "She (Bethan) was clearly a beautiful little girl who was full of life.

"She had everything to live for.

"You were her mother, you were responsible for her care and her wellbeing."

Colebourn planned to end Bethan's life, set an alarm to "carry out the act" and altered her will the next day, the court heard.

During the eight-day trial, the jury of five women and six men were told she initially denied all memory of the incident, but later recalled how Bethan agreed to have a bath in the middle of the night at her mother's instruction, telling police: "Sadly, my little girl trusted me completely."

Colebourn admitted killing Bethan but said she only wanted to "save" and "protect" her from her father.

The pair separated just over a month before Bethan's death.

Speaking after the hearing, Bethan's father Michael said: “There are no words to describe the past 18 months. The one thing in my life that gave me purpose has gone.

“My beautiful daughter has been taken from me in such a cold and callous manner at the very hands of the one other person that should have protected her and kept her safe.

“The loss of Bethan has had a huge impact on so many people: family, friends, and all that knew her. She was such a special little girl – bringing so much joy to all their lives.

“Throughout the criminal trial, I and all those that loved Bethan have had to endure the heartbreak of listening to her last moments. I have also had to suffer endless unfounded allegations and lies made against me with no opportunity to respond.

“I desperately miss being a daddy – we would have such great times together; Bethan’s laugh was infectious and her energy was endless. There is not a second in the day that goes by that I am not thinking about her.

“Bethan was my world and being her daddy made me so proud. I miss her so much.”

Detective Inspector Lee Macarthur of Hampshire police said: “All our thoughts are with Bethan’s family on this very difficult day.

“Claire Colebourn has taken the life of her own child, which has had a devastating impact on the rest of her family.

“Today’s outcome concludes this very sad investigation.

"I would like to thank all those involved – from the officers and paramedics who attended the harrowing scene that night, to the investigation team that has worked diligently on this case ever since, piecing together the events surrounding Bethan’s tragic murder."

Kerry Maylin, prosecuting during the trial, told the court their relationship had been difficult and the defendant had made "unfounded accusations" her husband was having an affair with his company's finance director, claiming the pair were planning to take over the business and start a new life together.

Karim Khalil QC, defending, said Colebourn appeared to have a personality disorder. This was disputed by experts.

He told the court she "sustained and maintained" her account and never sought to "deflect attention" over what happened to her daughter.

Colebourn has spent nearly a year in custody already and this will be deducted from the minimum term she must serve before facing the parole board who will determine whether she is ever released.