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Man who threw baby son into Manchester river guilty of manslaughter

Written by on 30/11/2020

A man who threw his 11-month-old son into a river in Manchester has been found guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

Zakari Bennett-Eko died after being pulled from the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, by the emergency services at 5.15pm on 11 September last year.

His father, 23-year-old Zak Bennett-Eko, was spotted throwing his son into the river before he walked to a nearby pub, where he was later arrested.

11-month-old Zakari drowned. Credit GMP
Image: 11-month-old Zakari drowned. Credit GMP

Bennett-Eko, who was too unwell to attend the trial, was said to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and believed his child was turning into the devil, a six-day Nightingale Court trial sitting at the Lowry Theatre heard.

His defence team argued that because of his mental state, he was unable to understand that what he was doing was wrong by the standards of reasonable, ordinary people, and that he should not be found guilty.

However, the prosecution said Bennett-Eko, who had been charged with murder, should be convicted of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

It took the jury less than three hours to return its verdict once it retired just after midday on Monday.

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As the verdict was delivered, cries of “yes” could be heard from the public gallery.

The court was told the Bennett-Eko had contacted the hospital and local doctor’s surgery several times in the days leading up to the incident.

He had asked to be sectioned at North Manchester General Hospital on 8 September, but left before being seen, the jury was told.

Emma Blood and her baby Zakari
Image: Emma Blood and her baby Zakari

Bennett-Eko had been diagnosed with psychosis related to cannabis when he was 17, and began to miss GP appointments following the birth of his son.

The court was shown text messages where his girlfriend Emma Blood told friends he had kicked her door in, thrown things at her and claimed that Beyonce was his mother.

In one message, she said: “He’s saying Zakari isn’t our baby and stuff. One second he’s OK, the next minute he’s going mad saying he’s going to kill himself.”

Bennett-Eko took his son for a walk in his pushchair at about 4pm on the day of the incident, while Miss Blood, who was eight months pregnant, was upstairs at their home on River Street.

Prosecuting, Rob Hall, opened the case saying Miss Blood had told her partner that he needed to start taking care of himself, because she would be unable to care for him as well as two babies.

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

Emma Blood and her baby Zakari
Image: Emma Blood, here with Zakari, was pregnant with her second child at the time

Psychiatrist Dr Inti Qurashi said during his evidence that Bennett-Eko hesitated before throwing his son into the river and thought: “What the f*** am I doing?”

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.”

However, the defendant’s treating clinician Dr John Crosby said that Bennett-Eko believed he was throwing the devil into the river at the time.

The case has been adjourned until 9.45am on Tuesday, when Bennett-Eko will be sentenced.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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