Mother survived, son killed — (Townsville Bulletin)

Original article no longer available

Townsville Bulletin

by Kim Arlington

14 feb 05

A SYDNEY woman who plunged into Parramatta River with her son in her arms planned that both would die, a court was told today.

But only four-year-old Stephen drowned, while his mother Shan Shan Xu was pulled alive from the water.

“We’re not coming back home,” Xu wrote to her mother, in a note tendered to the New South Wales Supreme Court.

“Just treat it as if we’ve had an accident. I have really had enough.”

Xu, 34, is now on trial for the murder of her only child.

She has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness to murdering her son on March 31, 2003.

“The crown case is that she killed Stephen by taking him into the Parramatta River … with the intention of killing both herself and Stephen,” prosecutor Peter Miller said.

Closed circuit television footage played to the court captured Xu leading Stephen by the hand to the end of the Meadowbank ferry wharf.

She wept in the dock as the video showed her disappearing off the wharf with Stephen in her arms.

Mr Miller told the court that when Xu was rescued from the river by a ferry, she was holding Stephen around the waist – but the boy could not be revived.

Xu, who has no contact with Stephen’s father, lives with her mother, Shu Hua Yu, in inner Sydney.

Ms Yu today gave evidence that Xu was a caring and affectionate mother.

But in early 2003, Xu said she wanted to die and “she wanted to take (Stephen) with her so I wouldn’t have to look after him”, Ms Yu said.

In February Xu was admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital with psychotic depression.

She was released after three days, given anti-depressants and seen twice daily by a mental health crisis team.

Xu seemed to be improving and St Vincent’s psychiatric registrar Dr Astrid Rogoz told the court that Xu “was at low risk of self-harm, suicide or homicide” when she saw her on March 5.

Stephen died less than four weeks later.

Xu spent a year after the alleged murder receiving treatment from psychiatrists, including Dr Olav Nielssen, who prepared a report for the court.

According to his report, Xu’s depression caused a morbid outlook on her future “so severe that she believed that killing her son and committing suicide was a reasonable course of action”.

“Her illness produced an abnormality of mind at the time of the alleged offence that had a substantial effect on her perception of events, her capacity to judge right from wrong and the ability to exercise control over her actions,” he wrote.

Dr Nielssen said Xu was no longer displaying active symptoms of mental illness or severe depression, but was at risk of further depressive episodes without medication or long-term psychiatric care.

The case, being heard without a jury by Justice David Kirby, continues tomorrow.

She has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness to murdering her son on March 31, 2003.

“The crown case is that she killed Stephen by taking him into the Parramatta River … with the intention of killing both herself and Stephen,” prosecutor Peter Miller said.

Closed circuit television footage played to the court captured Xu leading Stephen by the hand to the end of the Meadowbank ferry wharf.

She wept in the dock as the video showed her disappearing off the wharf with Stephen in her arms.

Mr Miller told the court that when Xu was rescued from the river by a ferry, she was holding Stephen around the waist – but the boy could not be revived.

Xu, who has no contact with Stephen’s father, lives with her mother, Shu Hua Yu, in inner Sydney.

Ms Yu today gave evidence that Xu was a caring and affectionate mother.

But in early 2003, Xu said she wanted to die and “she wanted to take (Stephen) with her so I wouldn’t have to look after him”, Ms Yu said.

In February Xu was admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital with psychotic depression.

She was released after three days, given anti-depressants and seen twice daily by a mental health crisis team.

Xu seemed to be improving and St Vincent’s psychiatric registrar Dr Astrid Rogoz told the court that Xu “was at low risk of self-harm, suicide or homicide” when she saw her on March 5.

Stephen died less than four weeks later.

Xu spent a year after the alleged murder receiving treatment from psychiatrists, including Dr Olav Nielssen, who prepared a report for the court.

According to his report, Xu’s depression caused a morbid outlook on her future “so severe that she believed that killing her son and committing suicide was a reasonable course of action”.

“Her illness produced an abnormality of mind at the time of the alleged offence that had a substantial effect on her perception of events, her capacity to judge right from wrong and the ability to exercise control over her actions,” he wrote.

Dr Nielssen said Xu was no longer displaying active symptoms of mental illness or severe depression, but was at risk of further depressive episodes without medication or long-term psychiatric care.

The case, being heard without a jury by Justice David Kirby, continues tomorrow.