Cardiff mother accused of starving son ‘locked herself away’ during pandemic, court told
A mother accused of killing her three-year-old son through religious fasting told police she had “locked herself away” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Olabisi Abubakar, 42, from Cardiff, is on trial charged with manslaughter and two counts of child cruelty relating to the death of Taiwo Abubakar.
Cardiff Crown Court heard that police forced entry to her flat in the Cathays area on June 29 2020 after a friend raised concerns for her welfare.
Abubakar, who was thin, malnourished and dehydrated, was found lying on a sofa bed next to the body of her son, Taiwo.
Cardiff Crown Court heard Taiwo weighed 9.8 kilos (22 pounds), with pathologist Dr Stephen Leadbetter finding his death was caused by malnutrition and dehydration.
The court heard Abubakar was sectioned on June 30 2020 and has remained detained in hospital, where she is being treated for paranoid schizophrenia.
Peter Donnison, prosecuting, told jurors that Abubakar was deemed fit for police interview in October 2020 and was interviewed by officers on eight occasions.
In one interview, Abubakar described “the effect on her of the pressures of not having help, fearing coronavirus for herself and her child, and her immigration status”, the court heard.
Mr Donnison said: “She described them as depressing. She said she was a religious woman and prayed to God and believed he had heard her and answered prayers and kept them safe.
“She had been taking her child out daily but she had to stop doing that due to the coronavirus. She described herself as locking herself away due to the coronavirus and her neighbour.”
Abubakar had been having issues with a neighbour at the property she was living at in Cwmdare Street, Cardiff, and was an asylum seeker.
The court heard she is a devout Pentecostal Christian and fasts as part of her faith.
Prosecutors allege that Abubaker caused her young son to fast of both food and water along with her, due to fears over the coronavirus pandemic and personal pressures.
However, in police interviews Abubakar repeatedly denied this and said children should not fast until the age of 12.
Mr Donnison said: “She said she would dry fast when she wanted to speak to God and hear something from God.
“She said her child did not fast, he did eat, and she gave him food to eat.”
Gone to heaven
Abubakar told police she had fallen asleep on June 26 and believed she had gone to heaven before being brought back to life when her neighbour and police officers arrived.
Mr Donnison said: “Olabisi Abubakar said she couldn’t explain what happened to her. She was asleep on the bed and that is what she remembered last. She said she believed she was being punished by God.”
In a police interview, Abubakar said: “I saw myself among the dead in heaven. I was saying, ‘I don’t want to die’. Then I saw the angels of God and they brought me back to life.”
The court heard a series of facts agreed by the prosecution and defence in the trial, read by Mr Donnison.
This included evidence that health visitors saw Abubakar and Taiwo before the pandemic and had no concerns, including in relation to her religion and religious practices.
They were not seen by healthcare professionals during the Covid-19 lockdown.
In February 2020, a police officer was called to a noise complaint by Abubakar’s neighbour and attended her room, which he described as “clean and warm”.
Taiwo was seen playing loudly and appeared “very energetic” and healthy, Mr Donnison said.
Police searched the property after Taiwo’s body was discovered on June 29 and found a note on food in a fridge, stating: “Do not touch anything, whooping cough, virus, save yourself”.
Abubakar wrote a series of notes while in an ambulance and in hospital, stating she was “very hungry” and “can’t stand up” as well that Taiwo was dead.
In hospital, Abubakar told a police officer: “I don’t eat, I can’t cook, because of coronavirus I can’t go and buy food”.
Doctors found Abubakar was suffering delusions and she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 on June 30 2020, with detention in hospital still ongoing for her to receive treatment.
The jury has been told it is not disputed that Abubakar, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to London in 2011, neglected her son but the issue is her state of mind at the time.
They will have to decide whether Abubakar may have been insane, which would make her not guilty of charges against her by reason of insanity.
Caroline Rees KC is expected to open the defence case for Abubakar, who denies manslaughter and two counts of child cruelty, on Thursday afternoon.
The trial continues.
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