Warning: report contains details some may find distressing
A mum put multiple morphine pain-killing patches on her two infant sons before stabbing them in their necks and bodies because she didn’t want them to feel pain, a jury heard today.
The Antrim Crown Court jury of six men and six women also heard that the 41-year-old, who has gone on trial for the murder and attempted murder of her two young sons, had penned several notes on the morning she stabbed them, writing in one that she gave them medication because “she didn’t want them to experience pain”.
Other “suicide notes” said “I’m taking my kids with me because I can’t leave them with their dad” and “I don’t want to feel completely torn apart when I am taking the life of my own kids”.
Before the prosecution opened the trial, Judge Patricia Smyth warned the jury they had “to be prepared to hear evidence that may upset you” but that, as individuals and collectively, they had to set aside any sympathy, prejudice or emotion and assess the evidence in a calm way.
The 41-year-old, who cannot be identified to protect the youngest victim, as well as her other children, is charged with the murder of her son on March 2, 2020, who was aged two years and ten months, and attempted murder of her other son, who was 11 months old.
Judge Smyth told the jury “there is no dispute” that the defendant stabbed the children, but rather “what is in dispute is her mental state at the relevant time”.
According to prosecution QC Charles MacCreanor, while doctors found that the defendant does suffer from some form of personality disorder or possibly autism, he told the jury they would hear evidence from doctors who treated her at the Shannon Clinic that she was “feigning symptoms and malingering”.
“In simple terms, in my words, she was putting it on, making it up, fabricating the complaints and, while some of what she said is or could be accurate, she is considered to be unreliable in the history that she gave,” said the senior barrister.
“We naturally say that there is a compelling case here and evidence before you of the defendant committing murder and attempted murder,” he submitted to the jury.
The day of March 2, 2020, began at the family home in an entirely normal way — everyone up early and departed for school and work by 9am. But within an hour, one child would be dead and the other rushed to hospital for life-saving surgery.
The boys’ father received a text from the defendant asking if they “could talk” and when he suggested leaving the issue until after he finished work, the defendant sent him a message saying, “F*** you.”
“He ignored that,” said the lawyer, but he added that, within the next 20 minutes, the dad had received more text messages saying, “I’m sorry… I killed the bots [auto corrected from boys] and I’m dying.”
“He immediately phoned her and she answers the phone… and she says to him, ‘Did you phone an ambulance?’ and then the phone’s hung up,” Mr MacCreanor told the jury.
Rushing to his home, he kicked the front door off its hinges and ran into the heavily blood-stained master bedroom, where he found his partner on the bed, saturated with blood, and his children “just looking lifeless”.
In a scene described by defence QC Kieran Mallon as “just carnage”, the jury heard how the little boy who died had suffered stab wounds which had punctured his airway and transected an artery and vein, which resulted in a “fairly rapid loss of life”, in addition to a stab wound to his chest which had caused a collapsed lung and would itself been life-endangering if not treated.
When police first arrived, his little brother was feeding from his mum, but when a constable took him to check him over, he began “screaming in distress” and was found to have suffered two punctures wounds, one to his neck and one to his abdomen.
As he was taken from her, the jury heard how the five-inch knife used to stab the children was being held between mother and son and an officer set it off to the side.
Mr MacCreanor told the jury the baby’s wounds had come close to severing his jugular vein and that he had sustained a partial collapsed lung, adding that, had his injuries not been treated, the little boy’s injuries “were life-threatening”.
The defendant herself had also sustained injuries — stab wounds to the left side of her chest and neck — and although the jury heard that the bed where she was lying was saturated in blood, “we are not talking life-threatening injuries” on her.
Eventually questioned by police, she claimed she “had no memory of what might have happened to her children” and when asked if she stabbed the boys to punish her partner, “she said she could not recall”.
Turning to legal issues that the jury would have to focus on, Mr MacCreanor said there was “no question” the defendant stabbed her sons, but the defence team had raised a “partial defence” that she was suffering from an abnormality of mind that substantially affected her thinking and perceptions of judgement.
He explained that if they were “firmly convinced” the defendant intended to kill or cause really serious harm, they would find her guilty, but if they considered it “more likely than not” that she was suffering such a significant abnormality of mind that it affected her thinking, they would find her guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.
Constable Kerrigan, first officer who arrived at the scene, said the boys’ father was “frantic, totally panicked… he was white, almost grey… crying uncontrollably”.
“He was standing, leaning, falling to the floor sometimes, over the central island in the kitchen, saying things like, ‘The boys are dead. She’s killed my boys,’ and just crying,” said the officer. “He was just completely broken.”
She told junior prosecuting counsel Michael Chambers that when she went into the bedroom, the paramedic treating the older boy “just looked at me and shook his head. His little body was just limp.”
The trial continues.