A mother accused of smothering her two children told a health visitor her partner had threatened to kill her, a court was told.

Nicola Learmount said Fiona Donnison asked for a home visit while estranged partner Paul was on a business trip to the United States.

She also claimed during the visit in January last year that Mr Donnison threatened their three-year-old son Harry with a slipper and had smacked him twice.

Mrs Learmount, who is based at Heathfield Community Centre, said she got the impression from what Donnison told her that Harry was terrified.

She visited Donnison at the family home in Sheepsetting Lane, Heathfield, on January 20, last year.

She told a jury at Lewes Crown Court: “Fiona said she had phoned because her partner had a temper and had smacked Harry on two occasions.

“She said Harry had not wanted to go to bed and her partner had threatened him with a slipper.

“Harry had stood very still with his eyes half closed. He had his back against the wall and was breathing very shallowly.

“It sounded to me that Harry was terrified and I asked her if he went blue. She said no and that he was fine.

“Harry looked fine to me so I said if he looked like that again she should seek medical advice.”

Donnison is alleged to have smothered Harry, three, and Elise, two, at her rented house in Lightwater, Surrey, five days later.

She is said to have put their bodies in bags into the boot of her car and driven to the former family home in Heathfield.

Mrs Learmount said both children had played happily while she spoke to their mother during her visit.

The health visitor added: “She said the relationship with her partner had broken down.

“The police had been called the previous weekend and she said her wrists had been hurt.

“She did say that he had threatened to kill her and she spelled out the word kill so the children would not understand.

“She also said she wanted to call her partner John as we spoke so the children would not realise who she was talking about.

“The children were playing happily and seemed to have a good relationship with their mother.”

Donnison told her that she planned to rent a house in Heathfield and get Harry into a local school in September.

Donnison also told her she only wanted her partner to have supervised contact with the children in future.

Mrs Learmount said she told Donnison she would have to arrange that through her solicitor.

She added: “I felt she was in control of the situation and had her future plans well organised.

“I felt quite happy to leave her with that and did not feel there was any action I needed to take as a result of what she had said.”

Donnnison, 45, denies two counts of murder.

The trial continues.