Father who killed sick son was 'delusional'

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The Independent Online

A former SAS soldier who smothered his terminally ill son to death was "delusional" and suffering from a condition similar to post-traumatic stress when he killed the boy, a court heard yesterday.

A former SAS soldier who smothered his terminally ill son to death was "delusional" and suffering from a condition similar to post-traumatic stress when he killed the boy, a court heard yesterday.

Andrew Wragg, who had just returned from working as a bodyguard in Iraq, was experiencing marital problems, and had become increasingly upset about the worsening condition of his elder son, Jacob, the jury at Lewes Crown Court was told. A psychiatrist said Mr Wragg had an "abnormality of the mind" when he decided to end the life of the 10-year-old at their home in Worthing, West Sussex, in July last year.

Mr Wragg, 37, admits manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility but denies a charge of murder. The prosecution argues that he selfishly murdered his son having spent the day drinking in pubs.

Mr Wragg says he smothered his son with a pillow in a mercy killing, which the boy's mother supported - a claim she has since denied in court.

Jacob suffered from the degenerative disease Hunter syndrome. He was deaf and confined to a wheelchair, and was not expected to live beyond his mid-teens.

Dr Nicholas Wright said Mr Wragg had endured a variety of severe stresses in the period before the killing, including three months in Baghdad where he narrowly escaped injury from a suicide bomber.

Dr Wright said: "At the time he killed Jacob, he had this delusional idea that this was what Jacob wanted."

The psychiatrist said: "The three months of this considerable stress in Iraq left him emotional. Then he came back to Jacob's deterioration, a marital stress, and the failure of social services to find a solution. This combination of stresses precipitated this abnormal state of mind. There was depression and anger with the situation and it impaired his judgement."

One of the most significant moments appeared to have been on the afternoon of the death, the court was told, when Wragg spent "proper time" with his son for the first time since coming home. Dr Wright said the defendant had looked into his son's eyes and believed he wanted him to "do something". He continued: "I think that triggered into his mind this recurring thought the situation was intolerable and something had to be done about it."

Mr Wragg claims that, later that day, he called his wife Mary, 41, and persuaded her to take their other son, George, 6, out of the house at 10.30pm. The former Royal Signals soldier, who is now divorced from his wife, then left the pub and went to the house and killed Jacob before ringing his wife and later the police.

Dr Wright said that he did not believe Mr Wragg was suffering from any legally defined mental illness when he smothered his son but he was depressed.

"It seemed to me from the evidence, at the time he killed Jacob he was suffering from an abnormality of the mind. It's what's called a reaction to severe stress, an adjustment disorder, it's not dissimilar to post-traumatic stress disorder, but there are additional stresses that cause a person to crack up." The court also heard that Mr Wragg had suffered a series of uncharacteristically emotional outbursts in the period before Jacob's death.

The trial continues on Monday.