Mother drowned four-year-old daughter in bath before setting body on fire in garden, court hears

Jury must decide if Carly Ann Harris's mental health problems mean she is not guilty

Tim Wyatt
Friday 14 December 2018 12:51
Mother Carly Ann Harris pictured in handcuffs

A mother on trial for murdering her four-year-old daughter deliberately drowned the girl in the bath and set her body on fire as a sacrifice to God, a court has heard.

Carly Ann Harris is accused of killing her daughter Amelia at a house in Trealaw, a village in South Wales, in June this year.

Michael Jones QC, for the prosecution, told the opening day of the trial at Newport Crown Court Miss Harris filled her bath and then drowned her daughter in it.

“The defendant then took Amelia’s dead body out of the bath, covered her with a sheet, carried her downstairs and placed her body on a coffee table that was situated in the back garden, and then set fire to Amelia’s body,” he said.

The 38-year-old denies murder and an alternative charge of manslaughter. Mr Jones said the facts of what took place on the day in June were not disputed and both the defence and prosecution agreed the defendant was suffering from a mental illness.

On the day the four-year-old died a neighbours heard screaming and went into the street where thef found Miss Harris standing in her front garden.

“God will be with her. The angels have taken her,” the mum told the confused neighbours, who later reported Miss Harris appeared to be “dazed”.

One of the neighbours decided to call the police and while ringing 999 went into the back garden of Miss Harris’s house where she saw the charred remains of Amelia covered with a duvet.

When officers arrived at the scene the 38-year-old told them “The angels told me to do it. Just arrest me. It’s okay.”

The court also heard how one of Miss Harris’s sons, who is 17 and cannot be named for legal reasons, said his mother “had not been well” for about six weeks leading up to the killing.

She had reportedly been suffering from anxiety, would wake him up in the middle of the night and believed her family was being stalked.

The 17-year-old returned home in the evening of June 8, the night Amelia died, and was told by Miss Harris not to go into the garden.

"Don't go out the back, she's gone to heaven and she's coming back on Sunday," she told him, the jury heard.

"The son walked into the garden and once there saw the coffee table and after lifting the sheet up he saw his sister's leg and it was charred and black," Mr Jones said.

"He then ran into the house screaming."

A post-mortem examination of Amelia concluded she died by drowning and was already dead when her body was set on fire.

Psychiatrists interviewed Miss Harris after her arrest and concluded she was suffering from schizophrenia.

One of the consultants who saw her, Dr Arden Tomison, noted she was feeling "spiritually enlightened from the date of the Passover".

She told him: "I felt the Holy Spirit enter me and that I have died and have been resurrected."

Mr Jones told the jury Miss Harris also was convinced she was being tested by God and had to sacrifice her daughter by drowning and then burning her.

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Mr Jones then said although the psychiatric evidence of Miss Harris’s mental illness was not in doubt, the jury’s task was to decide if she was not guilty of murder by reason of insanity or guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

"At the time of the act she was suffering such a disease of the mind that she knew the nature of what she was doing and intended to kill Amelia, but she did not know what she was doing was wrong."

In a statement released by South Wales Police after the little girl's body was found, her family said Amelia was a "fun-loving, caring and bubbly little girl".

"She was taken far too early from us and had her whole life ahead of her. Words cannot convey how we are feeling at this moment in time.

"We know our lives will never be the same again."

The trial continues.

Additional reporting by PA.

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