Woman who killed baby is freed

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The Independent Online
A woman who killed her baby by swinging him by his feet into the stairs was allowed to walk free from the Old Bailey yesterday.

Suzanne Oatley was suffering from post-natal depression when she killed 11-day-old Alexander in what Judge Gerald Gordon called a tragic case. He imposed a two-year probation order on condition that Oatley receives medical treatment.

Oatley, 37, of Manor Drive, Hinchley Wood, Surrey, had admitted infanticide. A secretary and linguist who has worked in South America and the Middle East, she was unable to cope when her son was born.

Richard Horwell, for the prosecution, said Oatley told medical staff: "Perhaps we should have him adopted. I wish it was just the two of us again," referring to her lover Alan Lewis.

During her unplanned pregnancy Oatley had sought an abortion, telling doctors Mr Lewis did not want the baby. But she later changed her mind and told her GP he was being very supportive. In fact, said Andrew Trollop, for the defence, Mr Lewis had been supportive throughout the pregnancy.

Just 11 days after Alexander was born Mr Lewis went out for a quick drink after caring for the baby all day. When he returned he found Oatley and the baby lying at the bottom of the steps. Alexander died soon afterwards in hospital from head injuries.

At first Oatley claimed the fall had been an accident, but later admitted swinging him by his legs into the stairs in what she described as "a nightmare, a black fog".

She told police she was afraid to confess because she feared the reaction of her parents and Mr Lewis.But, said Mr Trollop, he and her parents stood by her and now she hoped to start again with Mr Lewis.

After Alexander was born, she found it difficult to cope with motherhood. A doctor recorded: "I have been in practice for 10 years and have never seen a mother so depressed at such an early stage." She was prescribed anti-depressants after assuring the doctor she would never hurt Alexander. The next day she killed him.

Describing her as "a vulnerable and emotionally fragile lady", Mr Trollop said: "There is nothing she regrets more [than killing her baby] but she was plainly very ill indeed."

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