A Nigerian mother accused of killing her son through religious fasting in the UK should be found not guilty through reason of insanity, a court has heard.
Olabisi Abubakar, 42, who was found “thin, malnourished and dehydrated” alongside her son, Taiwo, in June 2020, blamed her action on alleged directives of the Holy Spirit.
Cardiff Crown Court heard on Thursday that three-year-old Taiwo weighed just 9.8kg (1st 5lb) and had died of malnutrition and dehydration.
Ms Abubakar denies manslaughter and neglect charges.
A devout Pentecostal Christian, Ms Abubakar and her son Taiwo were discovered by police at their home in Cardiff during lockdown in 2020.
The mother, an asylum seeker from Nigeria, later told police she was “following instructions from the Holy Spirit to begin fasting”.
She said she believed it would bring her closer to God and deliver the nation from Coronavirus.
The court heard from psychiatrists for the prosecution and the defence who both agreed that at the time of Taiwo’s death, Ms Abubakar was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
The outbreak of Coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown led to a significant deterioration in her mental health. She became increasingly isolated from friends at her church and stopped taking phone calls from her sister and Taiwo’s father.
Prosecuting, Mark Haywood, described the death of the three year old Taiwo as a “desperate tragedy.”
He told the jury of seven women and five men, “something profound must have changed in her life”.
He said she had been described by family and friends as a “good and caring mother”.
The court heard Taiwo had a disability in the form of a shortened arm and at the time of his death he was under the care of Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
Defending, Caroline Rees KC, said she agreed with the prosecution, telling the jury a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was the only verdict available to them in this case.
She said: “This is a sad and tragic case. You would not be human if you didn’t have an emotional response, but guard yourself from acting on this… look at the evidence.”
Ms Abubakar came to the UK in 2011. The court heard she left Nigeria to get away from her husband, leaving four children behind.
She first went to London, and in 2017 the Home Office made the decision to move her to new accommodation in the Cathays area of Cardiff. By this point she had a son from a new relationship.
The mother and son were given rooms in a terraced house and shared a kitchen with other residents.
The court heard she became a member of a local church. The wife of the pastor visited her at her home, but after lockdown she said she did not have any visitors.
Ms Abubakar told detectives she was frightened to go outside because of the pandemic and was isolated and depressed because she did not have any help.
She was unable to stand when she was found on 29 June.
The trial continues. (Adapted from a BBC report)