Mother jailed for killing son with bleach

A mother was today jailed for killing her autistic 12-year-old with bleach - after social services allegedly failed to address her mental health problems.

Satpal Kaur Singh, 45, struggled to cope looking after son Ajit and feared he would be taken away, the Old Bailey heard.



Her "obvious" mental health problems were recognised yet she was "allowed to resist help", the court was told.



David Hislop QC, defending, said: "Neighbours knew, school teachers knew, social services knew, but the tragedy for Ajit was that nothing was done."



Singh made her son drink a cup of Domestos in February last year, just hours after she refused to co-operate with council staff at a meeting over his care.



She also drank some herself and in a suicide note said she had done it after being "scrutinised and hounded by social services".



Singh, of Lambourne Road, Barking, east London, was jailed for seven years today after she pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at an earlier hearing.



Judge Peter Beaumont, the Recorder of London, told her: "I recognise how difficult Ajit was to care for.



"Your deteriorating mental health robbed you of proper insight into what was going wrong and erected real obstacles between you and people and the agencies that were trying so hard to help you."



Barking and Dagenham council said a serious case review was expected to be completed in the next few weeks.



The court heard that, during a meeting with social services on the day she killed her son, Singh had appeared "calm" and no-one who attended had any concerns about her behaviour.



But hours later she rang 999 to say: "I've just murdered my son and I've tried to kill myself."



Police arrived to find the boy lying on his back on the living room sofa, not breathing, and an "almost overpowering" smell of bleach in the air.



Singh later told detectives that voices in her head had been telling her: "You have to do it. Go for it, it's come to an end now."



The judge told her: "You faced the prospect of Ajit being taken away from you, but you killed him. You were, in my judgment, making a statement, without any consideration of his interests."



Psychiatrists agreed that the defendant, who is originally from Manchester, had been suffering from a mental disorder.



Mr Hislop said: "This was a woman who loved her son too much. The belief she held, because of her mental disorder, was that hers was an act of mercy."



He said the boy's life, plagued by health problems, had been made bearable by the "love and devotion" she had shown him.



Mr Hislop added: "One of the tragedies of this case is that the deterioration of her mental health was recognised by so many, yet she was allowed to resist the help of those who should have known better - ignoring the fact that her very resistance was symptomatic of her obvious decline in mental health and her not having any insight into that deterioration.



"Social services and other agencies were aware of her mental health difficulties and the deterioration of them and they were also aware that she was under considerable stress and clearly not coping."



Mr Hislop quoted a social services note from April 2009 which described a "possible mental health breakdown" and said: "She does not seek counselling to help her deal with her stress levels."



In October 2009, Singh complained to a social worker that a disability manager had previously referred to her as "another Victoria Climbie".



Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, said: "This is a case of great tragedy."



He said Singh feared social services were going to make an interim care order which would result in Ajit being taken away.



The court heard that the boy could not speak and was dependent on his mother for all his needs.



He had trouble getting around outdoors and would cover his ears and scream in crowded or noisy environments.



Mr Whittam said: "Social services had concerns about a number of things, including Satpal's parenting skills and her lack of co-operation."



During a meeting with social services on February 9 last year, she was told that, if she did not follow a care plan that had been devised for her, steps would be taken to remove the child from her care.



She replied by saying there was nothing wrong with her parenting and only she understood her child, adding that she was "not mad" and she did not want herself or her son to be "labelled".



Singh said she got "stressed by the social services 'stressing' her".



Mr Whittam said she "appeared to be calm throughout and did not leave anyone at the meeting with concerns about her immediate behaviour".



But she was upset and crying when she rang her sister at about 11am after the meeting finished, saying there was "bad news" and that social services were going to take her son away.



She made Ajit drink a cup of Domestos at around 8pm and drank some herself an hour later.



After she called 999, police arrived to discover her son lying on the sofa with his eyes closed and his right arm hanging by his side.



The boy had no pulse and was not breathing, and had corrosive burn marks around his mouth, chin and neck.



Singh, who was lying on the floor holding a mobile phone to her ear, was treated with charcoal and milk for the effects of drinking bleach.



She told a paramedic she had been thinking about "doing this" for four years, said Mr Whittam.



Singh told a doctor she killed her son after being told at the meeting that he would be taken away, adding: "Today I just couldn't take any more. This shouldn't have happened to him."



Barking and Dagenham Council said in a statement: "Barking and Dagenham Council's thoughts, first and foremost, continue to be with the Singh family.



"The council contributed to an independent serious case review to look into all details of this case and to address lessons arising.



"Barking and Dagenham Safeguarding Children Board will publish the findings of that independent review in due course."

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?