Cardiff mother accused of starving son through fasting was insane, court told
A mother accused of killing her three-year-old son through religious fasting was insane at the time, a court has heard.
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 and dehydrated, was found lying on a sofa bed next to the body of her son, Taiwo, who weighed just 22lb and had died from malnutrition and dehydration.
She was sectioned the following day and has remained detained in hospital to receive treatment for paranoid schizophrenia.
The evidence in her trial has concluded, with Mark Heywood KC, for the prosecution, and Caroline Rees KC, for the defence, giving closing speeches on Thursday afternoon.
Mrs Justice Jefford has begun summing up the evidence to the jury and is due to send them out to consider their verdicts on Friday morning.
The judge told jurors it was not disputed that Abubakar did the acts alleged but her defence team says she is not guilty by reason of insanity, a verdict only a jury can return.
Mr Heywood said “something profound” must have changed in the defendant’s life as she was previously described as a “wonderful, caring mother”.
Two psychiatrists have given evidence to the court saying she has paranoid schizophrenia.
Ms Rees told the jury: “Both expert psychiatrists agree that at the material time, the defendant was suffering from a disease of the mind, namely paranoid schizophrenia. It is an agreed position between experts in the case.”
She quoted evidence from witnesses describing Abubakar, who came to the UK as an asylum seeker in 2011, as a “very good mother” and “devoted to her child” before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The drastic change as to what happened over the course of the lockdown is supported by what we now know to be a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia with delusions,” the barrister said.
“This is a sad and tragic case. The evidence in the case, as the prosecution agree, points to only one verdict which is one of not guilty by reason of insanity.
“That is the verdict we invite you to return as indeed supported by the prosecution in this unusual case.”
In police interviews, Abubakar described the pressures of not having help, fearing coronavirus for herself and Taiwo, and her immigration status.
She told officers she had been “locking herself away” due to the pandemic at the property where she was living in Cwmdare Street.
The court heard that Abubakar is a devout Pentecostal Christian and fasts as part of her faith.
It is alleged that she caused Taiwo to fast of food and water along with her, due to fears over coronavirus and personal pressures.
However, in police interviews she repeatedly denied this and said children should not fast until the age of 12.
She told police she had fallen asleep on June 26 and believed she had gone to heaven before being brought back to life when police arrived in her room.
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.”
Health visitors who saw Taiwo before the pandemic had no concerns, including in relation to Abubakar’s religion and religious practices.
The pair were not seen by healthcare professionals during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The trial continues.
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