WARNING: distressing content.
A Sydney woman who drowned her four-month-old son in a “deeply irrational act motivated by ideas divorced from reality” believed she was doing something “righteous”, a court has been told.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was on Thursday found not criminally responsible of the murder of her infant son after she was found sitting next to his lifeless body inside her Oran Park home.
Justice Richard Button told the NSW Supreme Court the woman’s husband made the horrific discovery when he arrived home on the afternoon of May 20, 2021.
“In the short absence of her husband, she took the opportunity to drown her son by holding him under water in the bath until he died,” Justice Button said.
“How and why did such a person come to do such a distressing and lamentable act to her own baby?”
Justice Button is satisfied the answer is because the woman suffered from a mental health impairment which led her to fail to appreciate the “profound and palpable wrongfulness of her act”.
An Oran Park woman has appeared in the NSW Supreme Court after drowning her four-month-old son in May 2021. Picture: Supplied
Wearing a black jacket and green blouse, the woman sat and listened as the judge told the court she suffered from perinatal major depression and psychotic features, meaning her feelings were “thoroughly divorced from reality”.
The woman killed her son by holding him under water and drowning him, according to court documents, with the couple moving into the home just five days before the tragic events.
Justice Button told the court the woman suffered a deterioration in her mental state at the time, with friends and family describing her as “not herself” or “spaced out”.
“She undertook internet searches with suicidal intent, and on one occasion attended a train station seeking to harm herself,” the judge said.
She was prescribed depressants and was contacted by a suicide prevention service, but the court was told she failed to get help.
However, Justice Button said these factors could not “remotely render rational her catastrophic action”.
“This was not an act of resentment against the baby, nor some form of punishment of her husband or anyone else, nor an explosion of anger or frustration giving way to fatal violence,” he said.
“On the contrary, it was a deeply irrational act, motivated by ideas that were divorced from reality.”
The court heard the woman possessed “some sense” of the wrongfulness of what she was doing, as she waited for her husband to leave the home before drowning their baby.
According to court documents, her husband returned home about 4pm to find her sitting on the edge of the bath and asked where their son was.
She replied “I’m sorry” before her husband found his son lying face up in the bathtub, not breathing.
He asked her what she had done and she again replied “I’m sorry”, before confessing to drowning the baby.
The husband called triple-0 and performed CPR until paramedics arrived.
The woman sat in the Supreme Court in Sydney as she heard her fate. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Bianca De Marchi
When paramedics arrived, the woman confessed she had drowned the baby and told her husband: “I’m going to go away for a long time”.
Police officers later asked her why she drowned her son, to which she replied “Cause I need to go away” and “I need to escape my life”.
Justice Button told the court the woman’s plan was “bizarre to the point of absurdity”, as she wanted to escape her life by being incarcerated, with “the hope she might be killed in custody”.
He told the court the woman believed she was solving problems both she and her family were experiencing at the time, thus doing something “righteous”.
The judge said he was “well satisfied” the woman did not know the act was morally wrong as she was unable to reason with a moderate degree of sense and composure.
Justice Button said there was “no doubt whatsoever about who it was who did the act that caused the death” of the baby, but he also found she was “suffering from a mental health impairment” at the time.
“She tragically believed that she was doing something right,” he said.
He returned a special verdict of act proven but not criminally responsible and believes the woman will eventually “come to see the enormity of her own grossly disturbed act”.
The woman is to be detained at a forensic hospital until she is found fit to be released.
Once the court was adjourned, the woman thanked her lawyers.