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Mum killed baby daughter by bouncing on her

A mentally-ill religiously fanatical mother who smothered her baby was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act today.

Julia Lovemore, 41, of Milton, near Cambridge, killed her daughter Faith on June 17 last year in what prosecutors described as a "florid state of psychoses".

Cambridge Crown Court heard the mother-of-two had suffered mental health problems since the age of 26 and was visited by a community psychiatric nurse and a health visitor on the day of the tragedy.

Lovemore previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was today detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.

A restriction order was also put in place which means she cannot be released unless she is no longer deemed to be a risk to the public.

Prosecutor John Farmer told the court Lovemore had first shown signs of mental health problems in February 1995, when she was 26.

She recovered but had a relapse after the birth of her first child in July 2006, the court heard.

Authorities were alerted after Lovemore hit her child over the head with a hairbrush in November that year.

She was reported to police by her husband David, 39, who himself suffered from "profound mental health problems", Mr Farmer said.

He said the child was put on the "at risk" register in 2006, and in February 2009 when Lovemore was found to be pregnant with Faith, she was seen by a consultant psychiatrist who said she was at high risk of relapse.

The court heard the couple, both religious fanatics, insisted on having the birth at home without any medical attention at all.

Several meetings were held after Faith was born on May 3 last year, and Mr Farmer said there were no concerns "apart from the administration of extreme religious views".

A meeting was held early in June 2009 which determined both children should remain on the "at risk" register, the court heard.

Mr Farmer said one of the people at the meeting described Mr Lovemore as "quiet and bland" and when asked what he would do if either of the children were injured he said he would "pray first".

"He never said yes or no to calling the doctor," the court heard.

On June 17, a meeting had been set up with a community psychiatric nurse and a health visitor, the court heard.

Mr Farmer said when the women arrived at 2pm, they found Mr Lovemore downstairs praying for the defendant and the older child was sitting on the stairs.

Julia Lovemore and baby Faith were not actually seen by the visitors, who left to call for more help because they were disturbed by Mr Lovemore's behaviour, the court heard.

Mr Farmer said: "Unfortunately, neither of them sought to see the defendant and the best interpretation of events is that by then Faith was dead or dying because there would be no other reason why the husband of the defendant was so intensely engaged in prayer."

Rebecca Hughes, community psychiatric nurse, told police when they arrived that David was stamping his feet and saying: "Take the devil out of Julia."

She said: "I have never ever seen him like that before. It was as if he was in a trance.

"Julia said from upstairs, 'What's the matter David?'

"I could hear the baby making grizzling noises. I thought to myself Julia sounds calmer, the baby is alive, I assumed she was changing the nappy or something.

"I felt the situation was unstable. I was very worried about David, I feared he may be becoming psychotic.

"I felt very unsettled, I would almost go as far as to say I was scared."

The pair left to get more help, and Mr Farmer told the court Mr Lovemore walked into a doctor's surgery at 2.50pm with his elder child who had been doused in white spirit, and Faith - who was dead.

"Mr Lovemore turned up at the surgery with Angel who had been doused in some sort of white spirit and Faith who was plainly dead.

"Every reasonable attempt and some might say unreasonable attempt was made to revive her but it was hopeless.

"At home that leaves the situation of the defendant there alone.

"Her neighbour became aware that all was not well, hearing noises and there was the defendant throwing tins of paint and other things."

He said the neighbour called the police and Lovemore was arrested.

She was not interviewed until four weeks later, when she was well enough.

She told police that day her husband had gone to work as normal but returned early as he had resigned.

Mr Farmer said she told officers she became increasingly frustrated with the bible, and starting tearing pages out and ripping them up - putting some pieces in Faith's mouth, who spat them out.

She told police: "Sometime that day when David was home I went to the bedroom and Faith was there, she was on the bed.

"I sat on her. I was bouncing on the bed. I was sitting on her."

Sentencing Lovemore today, Mr Justice Cooke said: "The psychiatric evidence that I have read and heard today shows that you are affected by bi-polar effective disorder and you have had at least three manic psychotic episodes, in 1996, 2001, and 2006.

"Before the events of June 2009, at the time when this tragedy happened in June 2009, you were suffering from mania with psychotic symptoms."

He said these included grandiose delusions of special powers, religious delusions of identity and elated mood.

"Subsequently you were able to tell others what had happened and you told the psychiatrist that on the morning of June 17 you felt angry and frustrated and you recall ripping up the bible and putting pieces into the nappy bucket and also into Faith, your daughter's mouth.

"You did not know why you had done that or what your thinking was at the time.

"You remember sitting on your six-week-old daughter Faith on the bed.

"You thought you sat on her face, you thought that at the time you were thinking, 'sit on my face and tell me that you love me'.

"You bounced up and down on Faith several times, you were not able to say how long this incident went on but estimated about 10 seconds to one minute."

He said on the evidence, she was suffering from an abnormality of mind which impaired her responsibility, making the most appropriate sentence detention under the Mental Health Act.

But Frances Oldham QC, mitigating on behalf of Lovemore, today said the tragedy was avoidable.

She said: "In our submission that was a tragedy but given the history here of not only Julia Lovemore but also her husband, the father of the baby, it was a tragedy that could have been avoided."

There were several "indicators of decline and disengagement" from the 41-year-old, she said.

Lovemore's aunt, who was in court today, had reported her to authorities after becoming concerned over her "religious fervour", she said.

She had distanced herself from her family, branding them "heathens".

Mrs Oldham said other indicators included a phone call from Lovemore to her health visitor saying she no longer wanted the authorities involved with the family.

The barrister said that after the visit on June 17 when Mr Lovemore was behaving strangely: "There was no procedure in place for these to call immediately for assistance and the children were effectively left in the home."

The court heard Lovemore had since been treated in Fulbourn Mental Hospital in Cambridgeshire and would remain there for treatment during her sentence.

Lovemore's husband David, 39, was originally charged with allowing Faith's death but the prosecution was abandoned in April.

The court was told he was "psychotic" at the time of Faith's death and was receiving treatment at a hospital for patients with mental health problems.

A summary of the serious case review into Faith's death, carried out by the Local Safeguarding Children's Board, was published today.

Despite the tragic outcome for Faith, an independent management review found evidence of good communication between agencies, it said.

It also found assessments which outlined the risk to the children in a family where there were concerns about both the mental health of the parents and the impact of their religious beliefs.

Main lessons learned were a need to improve understanding of the nature of psychotic episodes and make sure it is shared and used in child protection processes, and that maintaining key information about family history was essential in assessment of risk.

The link between the parents' religious beliefs and their mental health was only partially understood, and that monitoring plans between agencies must be clear about expectations on practitioners and followed, it said.

Belfast Telegraph


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