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Murder charge mother in secure unit

A mother charged with murdering her two-year-old son has been remanded to a secure psychiatric hospital.

Melanie Ruddell, 39, of Dean View, Castle Eden, carried the lifeless body of toddler Christy into Peterlee police station, County Durham, last month.

After appearing briefly at Peterlee Magistrates' Court - next door to the police station - a bail application was heard behind closed doors at Newcastle Crown Court.

She received hospital treatment following her arrest and was deemed well enough to be charged by police.

In open court, Judge Michael Cartlidge said afterwards: "I have ordered that she be remanded to a secure psychiatric hospital to be treated by a consultant psychiatrist and that will remain the position for some months to come."

Ruddell became distressed during the hearing in chambers, the judge said, and was permitted to leave the dock before the open court part of the hearing to be taken back to hospital.

A plea and case management hearing will be held in February.

Ruddell is alleged to have killed her son in his sleep while they stayed overnight at the home of her brother Neil Close, 37, in West Rainton, County Durham, on August 9.

She then drove her son's body to the police station, where she was arrested on suspicion of murder.

A post-mortem examination revealed the toddler died after being strangled and had also suffered a single stab wound, although this is not thought to have caused his death.

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