Murder-accused mother 'had depression'

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The Independent Online

A mother who allegedly murdered her daughter by suffocating her with a soft toy was suffering from "clinically significant" depression, a jury heard today.

Mother of four Helen Caudwell, 42, is accused of deliberately smothering three-year-old Bethany with a Piglet toy in October last year, after which she attempted to kill herself by slashing her wrists.

Manchester Crown Court was told the defendant was intermittently prescribed anti-depressants for around seven years leading up to her daughter's death.

On several occasions she was referred for counselling and psychotherapy but did not attend any such appointments.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr John McKenna examined the supermarket worker from Cheadle Heath, Greater Manchester, in custody following her arrest.

Paul Reid QC, defending, asked for his conclusions.

He replied: "My opinion was that Helen Caudwell was suffering from a clinically significant depressive disorder.

"It appears that there is a family history which suggests a depressive disorder.

"An immediate relative had tried to commit suicide on a number of occasions and another had suffered long-term depression.

"There is a recognised tendency for the risk of depression to be increased when there would be such a history in family members."

He said her GP notes had revealed she was first prescribed Prozac in 1994 for post-natal depression.

She was given further anti-depressants on and off between November 2001 and January 2009, he said.

Among reasons cited were family bereavements and the breakdown of her marriage.

Prison records showed she tried to strangle herself with a ligature of bandages a week after her arrest, the court was told.

Caudwell told him she had not injured herself previously before her daughter's death, Dr McKenna said.

"She told me that a few weeks before 'everything happened' - in her words - while driving she had considered committing suicide by driving off a motorway bridge but it did not happen."

Recalling the day of Bethany's death she said she awoke to find her foot was cold, one side of her face was blue and she was not breathing, he said.

"She then told me 'I needed to go where she had gone. There were two lights on the wall like two spirits had come to fetch her', " he said.

"She had no recollection of suffocating her daughter. She said she did not believe she was responsible for her daughter's death as she loved her too much."

Caudwell denies murder.

Earlier today she elected not to give evidence in her defence.

The prosecution say Caudwell knew what she was doing at the time and intentionally and unlawfully suffocated her daughter.

She was said to have called her mother on the evening of October 2 and told her: "I just feel like doing away with myself."

Bethany was found dead the next day by Caudwell's colleagues at Morrisons who rushed round to her house after the defendant confessed to the murder in a phone call, it is alleged.

Caudwell was said to have told family and friends she was scared of losing custody of her daughter.

The Crown says she was leading a double life after telling both her husband and a man she was having an affair with that they were the girl's father. Her lover was in fact the real father.

Two days before Bethany died she was said to have told her husband, Miles Kennerley, whom she was divorcing at the time, that he could no longer see her.

The trial continues.