A married man “laced his pregnant lover’s drink with an abortion drug” to prevent his “double life from crashing down”. Darren Burke, 43, allegedly tried to serve his mistress Laura Slade a spiked glass of orange juice during a discussion about how much he would pay in child maintenance.
Ms Slade, who became suspicious and refused to drink it, later called police to test the glass. Isleworth Crown Court heard forensics found traces of mifepristone, a medication prescribed by doctors to bring about abortions in the early stages of pregnancy, on the glass.
Burke, who has been suspended from his Home Office role as deputy director for the emergency services mobile communications programme, denies supplying a poison and unlawfully administering it to procure a miscarriage.
READ MORE: Five-month-old baby suffocated after falling off bed and becoming ‘trapped’ in the gap by the wall
(Image: Humphrey Nemar)
Prosecutor Paul Jarvis told jurors: “His motive was obvious. If Ms Slade had kept the baby, then his double life would have come crashing down around him. There is no way he could have kept the existence of that child a secret from his wife and family.”
The court heard the pair first met at a nightclub in Kingston-upon-Thames in 2005 and started an affair in 2015. Burke has one child with his wife and Ms Slade has two children from another relationship, the court heard.
Mr Jarvis said: “Mr Burke’s wife was, it seems, unaware of his relationship with Ms Slade. She found out she was pregnant on November 15, 2020, and, on November 16, she sent Mr Burke a WhatsApp message to tell him about the news.”
The court heard there was “some discussion” about Ms Slade terminating the pregnancy and Burke “did not want her to have the baby”. Mr Jarvis said: “Mr Burke told Ms Slade that they couldn’t keep the baby because it would affect everyone – her children, his child and his wife. He wrote he was thinking about Ms Slade, but she rather took the view that he was really thinking of himself. Mr Burke replied that if she went through with the pregnancy he would have to leave his wife and family and that would kill them – especially his disabled father who was in hospital.”
Jurors heard Ms Slade decided she wanted to keep the baby, which was due in July. On November 24, Burke is said to have messaged Ms Slade to say he was angry with her because he felt she had not taken his views into account. The prosecutor said: “The exchange continued in a rather acrimonious way. There were no further messages between them until December 3.”
The court heard Burke, from Windsor, Berkshire, messaged Ms Slade asking if he could come to visit her the next morning and asked if she would like him to bring her a “Starbucks latte or a tea”. Mr Jarvis said: “It was unusual as he had never made an offer like that before.”
When he arrived he asked Ms Slade if she wanted a cup of tea, which she refused, but he went into the kitchen and came back with two glasses. The first contained water and the other a mixture of orange squash and water, the court heard, while Burke himself had a cup of tea.
Mr Jarvis said: “They talked in particular about what name was on the birth certificate for the child and what sort of financial contribution he would make once the child was born. It didn’t lead to any particular resolution – instead Mr Burke’s main interest was ensuring Mis Slade drank that orange and water mixture. But she would not.
“Mr Burke eventually went into the kitchen and poured that drink away and put his coat on and left. His persistence that she should drink, it had troubled her.”
Ms Slade is said to have seen a “residue in the rim of the glass” and texted Burke asking him about it. He denied lacing the drink and asked Ms Slade if she trusted him, the court heard. Jurors heard in these messages Burke also described himself as being at “breaking point” and a “f*cking mess”.
Ms Slade reported her suspicions to police the next day and forensic tests found traces of mifepristone. Mifepristone works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which is needed for pregnancy to advance. Burke was arrested in February 2021 and interviewed, the court heard.
Jurors heard that Burke said in a police interview that he had bought the abortion drug online “in case Ms Slade decided she wanted to abort the baby”. Burke is also said to have told officers he took the tablets to Ms Slade’s flat on December 4, but decided to get rid of them when she said she wanted to keep the baby.
Mr Jarvis said: “He was worried her children might find them or the dog. He said he broke them apart and washed them down the sink. He says he must have used that empty glass to crush them and rinse them away which would explain why the residue was on the glass.
“His defence is he did not intend to administer the drug to Ms Slade. The prosecution’s case is that these explanations are fantasy – Mr Burke purchased the mifepristone tablets intending to find a way to trick Ms Slade into taking one to suffer a miscarriage.”
The court heard Ms Slade miscarried the baby on Christmas Day but it was not suggested this was related to the incident.
The trial continues.