Allyson McConnell, pictured during a 2009 family trip to Australia, was convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of her two young sons. Curtis McConnell/Facebook
Allyson McConnell, who was convicted of manslaughter in the bathtub drowning of her two young sons south of Edmonton, has been found dead under a bridge in Australia where she was deported after she was sentenced, according to local media reports citing police sources.
A woman's body was discovered by a passerby Wednesday morning on rocks beneath Brian McGowan Bridge on Australia's central coast.
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Australia's New South Wales police force released a statement saying the woman is believed to be a 35-year-old from Gosford, about an hour's drive north of Sydney. Gosford is McConnell's hometown.
Peter Royal, the lawyer who represented McConnell, said he spoke with McConnell's mother early Wednesday morning.
He told CBC News there is little doubt the body is McConnell's, as identification papers were found with it.
He called the news "very depressing," saying she was so vulnerable.
"I won't ever forget the evidence she gave in court," he said. "It was very moving and upsetting. She didn't see any future and believed she would continue to try to kill herself."
"There are not many cases that stay with you, but this is one of them," he said.
Royal said McConnell was under a doctor’s care in Australia, but was not being watched around the clock.
He said her disappearance was reported to police within a few hours, and that McConnell’s body was found not long after.
In Millet, Alta., where McConnell once lived with her husband and two young sons, many are viewing McConnell’s death as the final chapter in a tragic saga.
“Sadness. Absolute sadness,” said Vivian Holtby, who lived next door to the McConnells.
“You know, it's going to bring a little bit of closure, but it doesn't make it any better.”
“It's an unfortunate event for both families,” said Cheryl Falkenberg, who lives in the small community.
“It's a sick feeling,” added Bernie Kroening.
The appeal of McConnell's conviction was scheduled to be heard in October in Edmonton, and her mother believes that was weighing heavily on her mind, Royal said.
Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis had said that if the Crown was successful in persuading the courts to increase McConnell's sentence, the province would try to extradite her from Australia to serve more time.
This morning Denis reacted to news of McConnell's death.
"If this is indeed Ms. McConnell, then it marks a disturbing end to what has been a very tragic situation and is certainly not the outcome anyone wished for," he said in a statement.
Robert Ovadia, a senior reporter with Seven News in Sydney, told CBC News Network that a formal identification is expected Friday afternoon local time.
"Police are very, very confident that it is Allyson McConnell.… Given that Miss McConnell had been reported missing yesterday, and given that a body has turned up that very much matches her description facially as well as personal effects on her, I think it's reasonable to say that it can be confirmed that it is her," he said.
Police have reportedly told Australian news outlets that the death is not considered suspicious.
"She hasn't been on any sort of watch list from authorities or any sort of scrutiny whatsoever," Ovadia told CBC News of her time in Australia. "In fact, from what I understand she's been somewhat reclusive in her time here.
"Her history of suicide attempts is obviously very well documented. I'm told that she has expressed suicidal thoughts since arriving home as well. So as sad as it to say, I guess that today seems somewhat of an inevitable conclusion."
McConnell's trial over the deaths of her sons, 2½-year-old Connor and 10-month-old Jayden, in Millet heard she had a history of depression and suicide attempts that began when she became pregnant by her father when she was 15. She told the court she subsequently had a miscarriage at 10 weeks and told no one about it.
McConnell was given a six-year sentence and served 15 months in a psychiatric hospital, after taking into account time served before her trial, and was deported to Australia in April shortly after she was released.
Curtis McConnell fought against his estranged wife's deportation, saying through a released family statement that he feared sending her to Australia would mean an appeal of her case would never be heard.
On Wednesday the McConnell family issued a statement to media, saying "Our thoughts are with Allyson's family and we send our condolences."
The couple were involved in an acrimonious divorce and custody fight.
Curtis McConnell discovered the bodies of the two boys the same day his wife drove to Edmonton, jumped off a freeway overpass and seriously injured herself.
A psychiatrist testified McConnell likely meant to kill herself, but was so close to her children that she considered their lives extensions of her own.
McConnell testified she would try to kill herself again because she didn't want to get well.
In the final exchange with her lawyer while in the witness box, McConnell was asked what will happen to her.
"Probably more tried and failed suicide attempts," she said.
"Will you recover?" Royal asked.
"I don't think I want to," she replied with her voice breaking.
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