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Dream family ends in tragedy in Canada

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Curtis and Allyson McConnell with their children, Jayden and Connor, in Australia.

Curtis and Allyson McConnell with their children, Jayden and Connor, in Australia. Photo: Courtesy The Edmonton Journal

It was 2006 and the attraction between the young Australian in Canada on a working holiday, Allyson Meagher, and the local lad, Curtis McConnell, was instant.

They were employed at the Delta Hotel ski resort in Kamloops, British Columbia, and met while Curtis McConnell was celebrating his birthday.

It seemed they were destined to be together.

A court artists sketch of accused double murderer Allyson McConnell.

A court artists sketch of accused double murderer Allyson McConnell.

Not long after the initial meeting they married, she took his surname, they moved to his home town of Millet, Alberta, about 40km south of Edmonton, and along came baby Connor.

A second son, Jayden, arrived in March 2009.

From the photos published in newspapers in Canada and Australia in recent years, the McConnells appeared to be the perfect family, with mum, dad and the two little boys posing with snakes and dolphins on holidays.

Curtis and Allyson McConnell on their wedding day in Australia.

Curtis and Allyson McConnell on their wedding day in Australia. Photo: Courtesy of The Edmonton Journal

But, soon after Jayden was born, the marriage was in shambles, with Curtis McConnell living in the basement of the family home and Allyson McConnell desperate to take her kids to her home town, Gosford, on the NSW Central Coast.

In December 2009, Curtis McConnell moved out and filed for divorce.

A judge blocked Allyson McConnell from returning to Australia with her sons.

The dark days took a tragic, fatal turn on February 1, 2010, when Curtis McConnell received a phone call from Edmonton police informing him his wife had fallen off a bridge and onto a roadway.

She survived, but was in hospital.

"Where are the kids?" Mr McConnell asked the officer on the end of the phone.

The officer didn't know.

Mr McConnell jumped in his car and drove to the family home, where the doors were locked, the volume on the TV was turned up and the power was out in certain rooms.

There was no sign of two-year-old Connor and 10-month-old Jayden.

He frantically searched the house and came to a bathroom, but the door was locked.

Desperate, he used a butter knife to open it.

"I could smell their dead bodies," Curtis McConnell, speaking through tears, testified at his wife's murder trial in a Wetaskiwin court last year.

Connor and Jayden were floating in the bathtub.

"I just dropped to my knees and I reached into the water, and the water was so cold.

"They were so cold and stiff. I had to pull them out.

"She just left them there to rot."

On the toilet seat next to the bathtub was his wife's wedding ring.

Allyson McConnell, who had lunch at a hotel before jumping off the bridge, admitted to drowning her sons in the bathtub, but at her trial she entered not guilty pleas to second degree murder.

Justice Michelle Crighton had to decide if she had the intent required to be convicted of murder.

Her ex-husband argued she did.

Forensic computer analyst Dwayne Pilling told the court Allyson McConnell had typed into a search engine on her computer "How long does it take to drown?", "How long does it take to die from strangulation?", "electrocution by hair dryer in bathtub" and "How long can you go without food and water?"

In a second bathroom at the home, police found a plugged-in hair dryer and another appliance in a bathtub filled with water.

A rope was found hanging from a ceiling post with a chair underneath.

On the witness stand, Allyson McConnell, looking gaunt and barely audible, told her own horror story of life growing up in Australia.

She said she was molested and fell pregnant aged 15, lost the baby through miscarriage, had other miscarriages and attempted suicide many times.

On April 20 last year Justice Crighton found her guilty of manslaughter, but not guilty of second-degree murder because there was enough "reasonable doubt that she had the specific intent to kill her children".

Mr McConnell filed a $C940,000 ($A903,000) civil suit against his former wife and, along with prosecutors, was furious with the 15-month sentence.

Prosecutors lodged an appeal against the murder dismissal and the length of sentence, and last Thursday, Allyson McConnell, after serving 10 months in a psychiatric ward of Alberta Hospital, was eligible for release and deportation to Australia.

Mr McConnell and Alberta prosecutors want her to remain in Canada until the appeals are heard.

Allyson McConnell's case was reviewed by Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada on Friday and, unless a late decision is made, she is expected to be on a plane to Sydney on Monday.

Mr McConnell fears his ex-wife could kill again in Australia.

"Will anyone there know about the murders she committed here?" he asked.

"Being only 34 years old, will she start a new family and have another child in her care?"

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

AAP

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