Mother accused of killing son, three, through fasting during Covid lockdown

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A deeply religious mother killed her three-year-old son through fasting during the Covid-19 lockdown, a jury has heard.

Olabisi Abubakar, 42, from Cardiff, is on trial charged with manslaughter and two counts of child cruelty relating to the death of Taiwo Abubakar.

Cardiff Crown Court heard that police were called to her flat in the Cathays area on June 29 2020 after a friend raised concerns for her welfare.

Mark Heywood KC, prosecuting, said officers forced entry and found a “tragic and distressing scene”.

“Olabisi Abubakar was lying on a sofa bed. She was noticeably thin, malnourished and dehydrated,” Mr Heywood said.

“Lying beside her was Taiwo. He was severely emaciated and cold to the touch. It was clear that Taiwo had been dead for some time.”

Abubakar, who was in distress, was lying on the bed with a multicoloured blanket next to her. One officer put his hand on the blanket and found Taiwo underneath it.

As the officer moved the blanket, asylum seeker Abubakar repeatedly said “he’s dead, he’s dead” and pointed at her son.

A post-mortem examination later found Taiwo, who was born in April 2017, had died from malnutrition and dehydration. He weighed just 9.8kg.

Abubakar was taken to hospital where it became apparent she was mentally unwell.

She is currently detained in hospital for treatment for paranoid schizophrenia and attending her trial by videolink.

Mr Heywood told the court: “The prosecution case is that Ms Abubakar consciously and deliberately neglected Taiwo by failing to provide him with food and water, causing him to join her in fasting as a religious act.

“Ms Abubakar is a deeply religious Pentecostal Christian, for whom fasting is a tenet of her faith.

“Her religion makes it clear that fasting is an act of devotion, and children – too young to understand this – should not fast.

“The evidence suggests that in 2020, fearful of the coronavirus pandemic and under personal pressure, she caused Taiwo to fast both of food and water along with her.”

Mr Heywood said it was not disputed that Abubakar had neglected Taiwo but the issue was her state of mind at the time.

Two psychiatrists are due to give evidence that she was suffering from delusions brought on by paranoid schizophrenia.

Jurors will have to decide whether Abubakar may have been insane, which would make her not guilty by reason of insanity.

The court heard that she was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to London to live with her sister in 2011.

Abubakar was provided with accommodation in Cardiff after giving birth to Taiwo in April 2017. She was noted to be a devoted mother, with “no concerns” for her or her son before the pandemic.

In early June 2020, Mr Obi saw Taiwo – previously a “fat, happy and healthy” boy – and noticed he was “unhappy and very thin”.

Mr Obi became concerned after not hearing from Abubakar and went to her flat on June 29, ringing 999 when he could not gain entry.

In a police interview, Abubakar told officers she did not remember anything from falling asleep on June 27 to being woken up by Mr Obi and police in her flat two days later.

“She described this wakening as coming back to life – she believed she had been in heaven because she could see relatives that had died and heard angels singing,” Mr Heywood said.

“She had said she did not want to die, and angels brought her back to life.”

She claimed Taiwo had been fed before June 26, having Weetabix in the morning and porridge at night, and said there was “nothing wrong” with him.

Abubakar told police she mostly fasted during Easter but insisted Taiwo did not fast because he was young, telling officers he was healthy and eating well.

In a notebook, Abubakar appeared to describe fasting with her young son, with one entry reading: “Thank you, Jesus Christ, for this three days fasting for the coronal 19 (sic), for the nation.

“Me and my child thank you Jesus Christ that I and my child can be chosen for this fasting for the nation.”

She insisted in police interviews that Taiwo had never fasted and she did not understand why she had written that note.

Mr Heywood said: “Ms Abubakar described the effect on her of the pressures of not having help, fearing Covid for herself and her child, and her immigration status. She described them as depressing.

“But she was a religious woman and prayed to God, and she believed he had heard and answered her prayers and kept them safe.”

Abubakar has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and two counts of child cruelty.

The trial continues.

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