Dad threw baby son into river after believing he was ‘turning into the devil’

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A dad who threw his 11-month-old son into a river after believing he was turning into the devil has been found guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

Little Zakari Bennett-Eko was pulled from the water by emergency services but could not be saved following the incident on September 11, 2019. He was found to have died from hypothermia, drowning, or a combination of the two.

His father Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, was seen throwing his son into the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, before walking to a nearby pub where he was arrested in September last year, the Manchester Evening News reports.

A six-day trial at the Nightingale court sitting at the Lowry theatre in Salford heard Bennett-Eko, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, believed his child was turning into the devil "and that he was being told to drown him".

While in custody, he asked for his dead mum to be contacted, and called an officer "Uncle Steve".

During the trial over Zakari's death, Bennett-Eko's defence team argued that the defendant was not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

But the prosecution argued Bennett-Eko should be found guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

And there were cries of “yes” from the public gallery as the jury returned its verdict on Monday, November 30.

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The court had heard Bennett-Eko, who is being held at the secure Ashworth Hospital in Merseyside and was too unwell to attend the trial, had contacted medics a number of times in the days before the incident.

He asked to be sectioned at North Manchester General Hospital on September 8 but left before being seen to.

Three days later he took his son out in his pushchair and threw him into the nearby river.

Rob Hall, prosecuting, had told the court Zakari’s mother Emma Blood, who was pregnant with their second child at the time, had told Bennett-Eko he needed to start looking after himself because she would not be able to care for two babies and him.

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Mr Hall said: “It may be that exchange set the seed in Zak’s mind that they would be better off without Zakari.”

Two doctors, relied on by the defence, say they believe that Bennett-Eko reaches the legal threshold for being declared insane.

Dr Higgins and Dr John Crosby, both psychiatrists at the secure hospital Bennett-Eko is currently residing in, say the patient truly believed his son to be the devil and thought "killing the devil is not wrong".

Dr Crosby said that Bennett-Eko's lack of attempt to save his son shows "how grossly disturbed his mental health is", after evidence that the defendant had been a caring father previously.

"He seemed very confused and may have been hearing voices as his eyes were looking around unusually. He did not look like he was aware of his surroundings," said the doctor.

"Although he did know what he was doing was wrong, he did not know what he was doing was wrong.

"He believed due to hallucinations that his son was the devil, and therefore it's not legally wrong to kill the devil."

During his evidence, psychiatrist Dr Inti Qurashi said the defendant told him he hesitated before he threw Zakari into the river and thought: “What the f*** am I doing.”

And summing up the case, judge Mr Justice Fraser said: “Dr Qurashi said he considered the hesitation before the baby was thrown into the river an important point and said it showed the defendant knew what he was about to do was wrong.”

  • Crime
  • Courts

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