Jury considers verdicts in trial of mother accused of fasting son to death
A jury has retired to consider verdicts in the trial of a mother accused of killing her three-year-old son through religious fasting.
Olabisi Abubakar, 42, from Cardiff, is charged with manslaughter and two counts of child cruelty relating to the death of Taiwo Abubakar in June 2020.
Cardiff Crown Court has heard Abubakar, who came to the UK from Nigeria as an asylum seeker in 2011, is a devout Pentecostal Christian and had fasted as part of her faith for years.
Two psychiatrists have given evidence to the trial that she was suffering with paranoid schizophrenia during the Covid-19 pandemic, leading her to a fast of food and water with her son.
Both prosecution and defence teams have urged jurors to return verdicts that Abubakar is not guilty of the charges against her by reason of insanity.
Mrs Justice Jefford sent the jury to deliberate in the case on Friday morning.
She said: “We have now reached the point where I am going to ask you to retire to consider your verdicts. There are three counts on the indictment.”
The judge said only a jury could return a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
During the trial, Mark Heywood KC, prosecuting, described how police forced entry to Abubakar’s flat in the Cathays area of Cardiff on June 29 2020.
Mr Heywood said Abubakar was “noticeably thin, malnourished and dehydrated”, lying beside the body of her son Taiwo, who was “severely emaciated and cold to the touch”.
A post-mortem examination found Taiwo, who Mr Heywood said had been dead “for some time”, weighed just 22lb and had died from malnutrition and dehydration.
Abubakar was sectioned the following day and has remained detained in hospital to receive treatment for paranoid schizophrenia.
Witnesses described her as a “wonderful, caring mother” in statements read to the jury, while health visitors confirmed they had no concerns about her or her son before the lockdown.
Health professionals did not see Abubakar or Taiwo during the pandemic.
Mrs Justice Jefford, describing the evidence of psychiatrists, said Abubakar had become “engulfed by her religious beliefs” as she experienced psychotic symptoms including visual and auditory hallucinations.
It is believed Abubakar had been fasting for at least three to four months before she and her son were discovered by police.
Abubakar, who has attended her trial via video link from hospital, accepted she did the acts alleged but says she is not guilty by reason of insanity.
Caroline Rees KC, representing the defendant, 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.
“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.”
She described the case as “sad and tragic”.
In police interviews, Abubakar described the pressures of not having help, fearing coronavirus for herself and Taiwo, and her immigration status.
The former hairdresser told officers she had been “locking herself away” due to the pandemic, staying inside the property where she was living on Cwmdare Street.
She said she had fallen asleep on June 26 and believed she had gone to heaven before being brought back to life when police arrived in the 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.”
Jurors have heard that fasting is part of Abubakar’s religion, but children should not fast.
The trial continues.
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