Bethany death trial mum ‘is not responsible for her actions’
August 10, 2010
A mother accused of killing her toddler cannot be held responsible for her actions, a court heard.
Lawyers for Helen Caudwell said she should be cleared of murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Jurors heard she was suffering from an abnormality of mind at the time and has now blocked out what happened.
Ms Caudwell, 42, is accused of deliberately smothering three-year-old Bethany Caudwell Kennerley last October at her flat in Redwood Close, Cheadle Heath, Stockport, before trying to kill herself. She denies the charge, saying she does not know how the tot died.
On day six of the trial at Manchester Crown Court, jurors heard she had been suffering from a major depressive episode in the weeks leading up to Bethany’s death on October 2.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist John McKenna said she had been on Prozac since 2001 and that stressful events in her life at the time – including rows with her husband over custody – had reached a ‘crescendo’ in the week before Bethany’s death.
He also noted a history of depression in her family and a disturbed childhood.
He said: “I think it’s more likely than not that at the relevant time she was suffering from an abnormality of mind caused by a psychiatric disorder, specifically a depressive disorder, and that state of mind significantly affected and morbidly coloured her rational judgement.”
He said this meant she could not properly weigh up courses of action.
Ms Caudwell will not give evidence. The court heard she has tried to kill herself twice after her arrest, once at Wythenshawe Hospital and once in prison.
Prosecutors say the defendant is lying about her amnesia. Ray Wrigglesworth, prosecuting, noted she had gone to bingo the night before Bethany’s death and had appeared calm and controlled on the day she died.
Under cross-examination, Dr McKenna conceded she could be trying to ‘pull the wool over everyone’s eyes’.
Appearing for the prosecution, consultant forensic psychiatrist Laurence Chesterman said a third of murder suspects claim to have amnesia.
He said he found her explanation ‘highly implausible’ and he believed Ms Caudwell’s depression had been mild in the run-up to Bethany’s death.