Mother who killed five-month-old son freed on probation

Sentence was passed down at Belfast Crown Court
Sentence was passed down at Belfast Crown Court

A “tormented and broken” mother of two, who killed her youngest son in a fit of post-natal despair and fear she’d passed on “bad genes”, has been freed on probation.

Mr Justice Treacy told the weeping 32-year-old woman, who can’t be named for legal reasons, that: “I consider that justice would not be served by sending you back to prison.”

The defendant, he said, had been assessed by three different consultant psychiatrists and all “were unanimous in the view that at the time of the offence the defendant was suffering from a severe depressive episode with psychotic features following the birth of her second child”.

Mr Justice Treacy said the woman had “expressed the deepest remorse and sorrow to her husband and surviving son” and that “she recognised that she had taken everything from her son – his whole future – and considered that this would haunt her for the rest of her life”.

A prison chaplain had also noted, in a reference given to the court, that “in his opinion ... you are a tormented and broken woman ... who has never once forgotten the tragedy that occured at her hands”.

Mr Justice Treacy also told her that in deciding how to deal with her case he had “carefully considered all of the expert reports, pre-sentence reports and the details and helpful submissions” from both the prosecution and defence lawyers.

Belfast Crown Court had heard she had originally been charged with the murder two years ago of her five-month-old son, but that all medical and legal experts agreed that the appropriate charge was one of infanticide, which she admitted.

The woman was put on probation for three years, with the added condition she follows and complies with all medical, pyschiatric, psychological or counselling assessment or treatments. Failure to do so could result in her being resentenced.

Earlier this month prosecution QC Ciaran Murphy told the court that the harrowing and tragic incident first unfolded at 7.45am on March 7, 2014 when the emergency services received a 999 call from a woman telling them she had “killed her baby”. Police and paramedics rushed to her home, finding the “dazed” mother sitting alone on a sofa.

She told them her baby was in the bedroom where they found him lying in a cot, on his back. He was still, with blood around his nose and mouth, and was a “poor colour”.

After finding the baby, a police constable spoke to the woman who was lying on the sofa with her knees pulled up to her chest, facing the back of the sofa. He asked her what happened.

“I just killed my baby, I just suffocated him,” she replied.

The prosecution lawyer said it soon became clear that not only was the woman not fit for detention, she was also not fit for interview and was taken to Knockbracken where she was admitted under the Mental Health Order.

However, she subsequently spent 13 months in custody on remand, before being released on bail.

When eventually interviewed, the woman – with the help of her solicitor – provided police with a written statement about the events.

“I know now that my mind was not right. I can’t believe that I did this. If I felt the way I feel now, this would not have happened. I wish I could turn back the clock.

“I wish that I could hold him and hug him and kiss him. I miss him so much and my family will never be complete.

“I am so sorry to my husband and to our other son. I have taken everything away from my son, his whole future, and this will haunt me for the rest of my life.

“I am so sorry about all this,” read the statement.

Medical notes subsequently revealed that the woman feared that she had given her son brain damage because she had left heating on in the apartment for too long.

She also believed that her eldest child had been affected by the flu jab, as well as believing her youngest had suffered because she had not taken him for the injection.

In addition, after being told her eldest son was probably on the autistic spectrum, she felt she was guilty of “passing bad genes” on to both of her children.

Defence lawyer Sean Doran QC revealed that the child’s death has had a “profound impact” on her family and led to the break-up of the marriage. She has also not seen her eldest child since last March.