03/20/2012 12:22 EDT | Updated 05/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Alberta mom may have intended to kill sons, psychiatrist says

An Alberta mother drowned her two sons before attempting suicide to keep them close to her, a forensic psychiatrist told a crowded Wetaskiwin courtroom Tuesday.

Allyson McConnell, who is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, was close to her children and saw them as an extension of herself, of her own life, so killing Connor, two, and Jayden, 10 months, was an extension of her own suicide, said Dr. Alberto Choy.

Choy believes McConnell saw suicide as a way to give her some sense of control.

She did not want to be separated from her sons even in death and decided to take them with her, he said.

Asked if McConnell intended to kill her children, Choy said, "It is not out of the realm of possibility."

"We believe that it is much more likely she overdosed after her children died … and that the death of her children was purposeful in that she wanted to keep her children with her when she made the decision she did not want to continue with her life," he said in written evidence.

The case will come down to whether the judge believes McConnell was able to form the intent to murder her sons.

The defence hopes to establish that mental illness prevented McConnell from forming that intent and so cannot be held legally responsible.

McConnell testified Monday she is unable to remember drowning her sons on the last weekend of January 2010.

McConnell's lack of memory may be genuine, a coping mechanism to protect herself from something so awful, amnesia becomes her armour, Choy said.

There's a "real psychological need to protect herself from awful events," he said.

Choy has been treating McConnell at Alberta Hospital in Edmonton for the past two years.

During therapy, McConnell revealed she had a flash of seeing herself holding a child down in the water, he said, something McConnell did not mention during her testimony Monday.

Choy called McConnell's case complicated.

"We think the risk for her committing suicide is significant, if not high," he told the court.

During her testimony, the Millet, Alta., mother insisted she loved her children and never intended to harm them.

The court also heard testimony Tuesday from McConnell's mother, Helen Meager, who travelled to Canada from her native Australia after the boys' deaths.

When Meager arrived at the hospital, McConnell seemed to be unaware her children were dead. Meager testified that her daughter became hysterical when she got the news.

"She was throwing herself all around," Meager said. "I don't think she believed it."

Evidence wrapped up on Tuesday. Closing arguments will be made on Thursday after which the judge will reserve her decision.