Mother ‘drenched’ infant son in boiling water, court told
Posted on 28th July 2022 at 22:43
Social worker describes how she is kept awake at night by ‘vivid images’ of injuries to 18-month-old victim
A knife-wielding mother “drenched” her infant son in boiling water and said ‘I want to kill my children and myself’ whilst falsely imprisoning a social worker, the Central Criminal Court heard on Thursday.
The court also heard a victim impact statement from the social worker during Thursday’s sentence hearing, where she said that she is kept awake at night by the “vivid images” of the 18-month-old victim’s skin peeling from his “raw and pink” face and his high pitched screams.
The social worker had barred a door to try and prevent the mother getting close to the children and later placed herself between the mother and her two boys before carrying them to safety, the court also heard.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was originally charged with two counts of attempted murder of her two sons, then 18-month-olds, on October 9th 2019 at her home. She failed in a bid to have the attempted murder charges against her dismissed last year.
Last month at the Central Criminal Court, the mother pleaded guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to one of the two children on the same date. She further pleaded guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a “large kitchen knife”, in a manner likely to unlawfully intimidate another person on the same occasion.
In addition, she admitted falsely imprisoning a female social care worker on the same date and location.
At the outset of Thursday’s sentencing hearing, prosecution counsel Sean Guerin SC told Mr Justice David Keane that there are five counts on the indictment. He added that the first two counts are attempted murder counts in respect of the accused’s twin sons, who were 18-months old at the time of the incident.
Mr Guerin said that a nolle prosequi will be entered (i.e. the charges will be dropped) on these two counts at the end of the sentencing process.
Mr Guerin said that guilty pleas were entered on the remaining three counts in June and they were acceptable to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on a full facts basis.
Outlining the events that led up to the incident, Mr Guerin said a female social care worker was supervising the two boys, who were in foster care at the time, at the accused’s home on October 9th. Garda Aisling Carroll told Mr Guerin that the social worker had arrived at the accused’s address at 9.15am, where she met the 18-month-old twin boys who were born to the accused woman but who had been in foster care since their births.
At around 10.30am, one of the boys was in the living room with the social worker and the other boy was in the kitchen with the accused. The social worker could hear the child in the kitchen babbling and talking with the accused and the sound of a biscuit wrapper. The social worker’s impression was that the child in the kitchen went very quiet and that the whole house went quiet.
She immediately got a feeling that there was something wrong and went into the kitchen and found the accused in the hallway. The boy was standing in the kitchen door soaking wet and looked shocked. The social worker knew that something was wrong, lifted the boy and felt that he was “roasting hot”. As she did this the accused had a long black and white kitchen carving knife in her hand and said: “I want to kill my children.”
The social worker said the accused appeared to be very calm and so she [the social worker] went into the living room to the other child. The accused followed the social worker and both sons with the knife. The social worker closed the door tight and tried to block the door before calling the emergency services. As she was doing this, the accused was trying to push her way into the living room as the boys became hysterical.
At this point, the social worker could see blisters developing on the boy’s face and realised that the noise of an appliance which she had earlier heard in the kitchen was the sound of a kettle being repeatedly boiled. Boiling water had been poured over the child.
Mr Guerin said the accused then forced the living room door open, held the knife to her chest and twice said: ‘I want to kill my children and myself’’. The social worker tried to take the knife from the accused but she would not let it go.
As the accused moved into the room with the knife, the social worker placed herself and the couch between the defendant and the boys. The phone line to the emergency services was open at the time and the call was shown to have lasted 15 minutes.
The social worker asked the accused to pray so that the situation would not escalate further and they prayed together.
The social worker managed to distract the accused for long enough to unlock the door and get herself and the two children out of the house.
The social worker believed that the accused had planned the incident as she had been trying to separate the children from her [the social worker] during the morning by bringing the children upstairs and enticing them with biscuits into the kitchen.
The accused was later admitted to psychiatric care in Tallaght Hospital, where she remained for a week. She later told gardaí in interviews that she had a mental problem, that she had not taken her medication and that her mood was very low.
The boy was taken to Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin where he was treated by a consultant plastic surgeon. Approximately 18 per cent of his total body surface has been left with permanent scarring and he remained in hospital for almost a month.
The garda said that the accused, who is a mother-of-five, had been living in Ireland for 16 years and came originally from an African country. She had custody of her three older children but her twin sons had been placed in foster care shortly after they were born.
The court heard the woman has no previous convictions but had been detained on several occasions under the Mental Health Act 2004.
In her victim impact statement, the foster mother to the twin boys said she and her husband chose the boys in October 2018 as they “needed a forever home” and that they “felt blessed” to bring them into their family.
In February 2019 she was told their biological mother wanted access to them. “We were concerned as we thought we were going to lose the boys,” she said.
October 9th, she added, was a day they would never forget. The foster mother said her husband dropped the boys off at their biological mother’s house and that they were clingy and anxious and did not want to go.
“He left the kids with the social worker, not knowing what would happen. To this day my husband feels so guilty. I got a phone call saying there was an incident with boiling water,” she continued. When they arrived at the hospital, she said one of the twin boys was no longer the “beautiful little boy” she had said goodbye to that morning.
“The doctor did not know if he could hear or see, his skin was melted,” she said. “He will spend his life wondering why he won’t look like his twin brother. It took him three weeks to become responsive, the sense of relief was unbelievable, our little boy was going to live,” she said.
“He had to learn how to walk again, he was so fragile, his burns were so severe they had to be dressed three to four times a day,” she said. “Going forward he will have to have multiple surgeries. He needs to have his skin coated with silicone cream three times a day. He has been permanently scarred for life. I dread the day he is teased about this from other kids. I don’t know what the future holds but we will give them all the love and support we can,” she concluded.
In a second victim impact statement, the social worker said her life has considerably changed since that day and she has not been able to return to her work. She said she suffers flashbacks, insomnia and PTSD.
Under cross-examination, the garda agreed with Defence Counsel, Anne Rowland SC, that her client was in a psychiatric hospital for much of the first two years of the twins’ lives and that she had not taken her antipsychotic medication for three days prior to the incident. The garda also agreed with the barrister that the accused has very little prospect of getting her children back full time and that she had been seeing them four hours a week but it was always monitored.
In his submissions, Mr Guerin said the appropriate sentence ranged between 15 years and life imprisonment. Ms Rowland said her client wanted to extend her sincere apology and remorse to the social worker, her own child and the foster parents.
“She is tremendously grateful that he is fortunate enough to have this couple who are so kind and caring to him and his brother,” she added.
Mr Justice Keane remanded the woman in custody until October 6th, when she will be sentenced.
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