Father, 23, who killed his 11-month-old son by throwing him into a river is found guilty of manslaughter
- Baby Zakari Bennett-Eko died after he was pulled from the River Irwell last year
- He was thrown in by father, Zak, who was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia
- Believed his child was turning into the devil and is being held at a secure hospital
A father who threw his 11-month-old son into a river was today found guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.
Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, was seen throwing his son, Zakari, into the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, on September 11 last year before walking to a nearby pub where he was later arrested. The baby died after being pulled out at 5.15pm.
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.
Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, (left) who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, threw his baby Zakari Bennett-Eko (right) into the River Irwell
His defence case was that because of his mental state, he did not know what he was doing was wrong by the standards of reasonable, ordinary people and he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
But the prosecution argued Bennett-Eko, who was charged with murder, should be found guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.
The jury retired just after 12pm on Monday and returned its verdict of guilty of manslaughter shortly after 3pm.
There were some cries of ‘yes’ from the public gallery as the verdict was delivered.
The court heard Bennett-Eko, who was too unwell to attend the trial, had contacted the hospital and his doctor’s surgery 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, the jury was told.
Bennett-Eko, who was diagnosed with psychosis related to cannabis at the age of 17, began to miss GP appointments following Zakari’s birth, the court heard.
In text messages heard in court, his girlfriend Emma Blood told friends he had kicked her door in, thrown things at her and claimed pop star 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.’
On September 11, Bennett-Eko had taken his son out in his pushchair at about 4pm while Miss Blood, then eight months pregnant with the couple’s second child, was upstairs in their home in River Street.
Baby Zakari with his mother Emma Blood in a handout photo provided by the family
Opening the case, Rob Hall, prosecuting, said Miss Blood had told Bennett-Eko he needed to start looking after himself because she would not be able to care for two babies and him.
He said: ‘It may be that exchange set the seed in Zak’s mind that they would be better off without Zakari.’
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.’
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.’
But Bennett-Eko’s treating clinician Dr John Crosby told the court the defendant believed he was throwing the devil into the river at the time.
Dr Melanie Higgins, clinical director at Ashworth high secure hospital, where the defendant is being held, agreed with Dr Crosby.
The case was adjourned until 9.45am tomorrow when the defendant will be sentenced.