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Mother admits killing autistic son by making him drink bleach

Monday 15 November 2010 14:47 GMT

A mother who made her 12-year-old autistic son drink a cup of bleach because she feared social services would take him away pleaded guilty to manslaughter today.

Satpal Kaur Singh, 44, killed her son Ajit just hours after she refused to cooperate with council staff at a meeting over his care.

But she had appeared "calm" and no one else who attended had "any concerns about her immediate behaviour", the Old Bailey heard.

Hours later she rang police to say: "I've just murdered my son and I've tried to kill myself."

The court heard that social workers at Barking and Dagenham Council had concerns about Singh in the months before she killed her son on February 9 this year.

Singh, of Lambourne Road, Barking, east London, denied murder but today pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

Prosecutors accepted the plea after psychiatrists assessed that she was suffering a mental disorder.

Singh was remanded in custody to be sentenced on December 13.

Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, said: "This is a case of great tragedy. It involves the killing of a 12-year-old autistic boy by his mother."

He said Manchester-born Singh feared social services were going to make an "interim care order" that would result in the boy being taken away.

Mr Whittam said Ajit "was dependant on his mother for all his needs", could not speak so had trouble communicating, and had difficulty getting around outdoors.

"He could not tolerate crowded places or noisy environments. He would cover his ears and scream. He needed assistance with his personal hygiene.

"He had no sense of danger. He could be found outside the home despite locks to try to prevent him going outside on his own.

"Social services had been engaged. There were many child protection conferences. Satpal Kaur Singh did not attend many of them but she did attend some."

Mr Whittam said Singh had made complaints against a number of people, including her husband, neighbours and members of social services.

"A neighbour who has known Satpal for over 10 years describes her as blowing everything out of proportion and not being capable of talking reasonably with anybody. It was as if everyone was persecuting her."

Singh had previously spoken about killing herself by drinking bleach because of her problems with social services.

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

The court heard Singh had made her son drink a cup of Domestos at around 8pm on February 9 and said she had drunk some herself an hour later.

That morning she had attended a meeting with social services after the local authority decided to apply for a care order.

She later said in police interview that at the meeting she was told if she did not comply with a care plan devised for her, proceedings would begin to remove the child from her care - but she said she would not cooperate.

Mr Whittam said during the meeting, issues were raised about neglect and her lack of involvement with social services.

Singh had replied by saying she had "no difficulties with her parenting ability" and only she understood her child.

"She said she got stressed by the social services 'stressing' her," Mr Whittam told the court, adding that she refused a psychiatric assessment.

"That refusal brought the meeting to an end as she was no longer cooperating and an interim care order was going to be sought," Mr Whittam said.

Singh refused also to allow parenting or paediatric assessments, saying she was "not mad", that she did not want herself or her child to be "labelled" and that social services would not take him away.

"The meeting concluded because there appeared to be no purpose in continuing. This defendant appeared to be calm throughout and did not leave anyone at the meeting with any concerns about her immediate behaviour."

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

The defendant was described by her sister as "a loving mother and someone who would do anything for her children".

At 10.29pm, Singh rang 999 and said: "I've just murdered my son and I've tried to kill myself."

Police arrived shortly afterwards to find the boy lying on his back on the living room sofa and an "almost overpowering" smell of bleach in the air.

"His eyes were closed and his right arm was hanging down by his side," Mr Whittam said. "There was a patch of vomit on the floor near his feet."

"The defendant was lying on the floor holding a mobile telephone to her ear, and a cup of bleach next to her. Also in the middle of the floor was a wet patch of carpet, which smelt of bleach, and a pile of tissues."

In a suicide note, Singh said she had killed herself and Ajit because they had been "scrutinised and hounded by social services".

A police constable found the boy was not breathing and he could not find a pulse. He also noted corrosive burn marks around his mouth, chin and neck.

The officer also noticed a knife lying beside the defendant, which he removed. Singh appeared to be "very calm".

Doctors at Newham General Hospital found the boy had suffered a long period of multiple organ failure.

Mr Whittam said: "Despite strenuous efforts by hospital staff it was not possible to save Ajit."

Singh was taken to Queens Hospital in Romford and given charcoal and milk as treatment for the bleach she had drunk.

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

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

She later told police that there had been voices in her head, growing louder, telling her: "You have to do it. Go for it, it's come to an end now."

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