Friday 23 March 2018

'He is a fake child' - Mother's text hours before she killed son (2)

Hazel Waters and Muhammad Hassan Khan (inset)
Hazel Waters and Muhammad Hassan Khan (inset)

Andrew Phelan

A BEAUTICIAN stabbed her toddler son to death with a pair of scissors while suffering from a delusion that he had been cloned, a court has heard.

Hazel Waters (47) left the body of her two-year-old child Hassan at her apartment and spent hours having coffee in a shop before going to her sister-in-law’s house, where the gardai were called.

Officers then went to Waters’ home to find the child in his bedroom and his mother’s bloody footprint beside the body.

The Central Criminal Court heard Waters, a “devoted mother”, had an emotionally unstable personality disorder and had suffered a psychotic episode when she killed her son.

Psychiatrists have said while she was not considered insane, her mental state left her with diminished responsibility at the time of the killing.

Waters of Ridge Hall, Ballybrack has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Muhammad Hassan Khan between 15-16 October, 2014. The toddler was found dead with stab wounds in the bedroom of their home on October 16.

She had pleaded not guilty to murder and the manslaughter plea was accepted by the prosecution.

Her sentencing hearing is taking place today before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy.

Detective Sergeant Joe O’Hara told the court Waters went to the home of her sister in law Maria Waters on October 16, 2014.

She was in a distressed state and her sister in law noted that Waters was there without her son. This was “quite unusual.”

Waters also had with her an item that Hassan would normally have had with him - a wooden spoon. She had adopted the Muslim faith but was not wearing a hajib.

These were “all matters that Maria found to be unusual,” Det Sgt O’Hara agreed with the prosecuting barrister.

When asked where Hassan was, she told her sister in law “they had taken him.”

She was unable to say who they were or where he was. A phone call was made to the gardai who came to her house and then went to Waters’ apartment in Ballybrack, where the body of Hassan Khan was found.

Waters was with them and when asked about how to get in, Waters indicated that it was unlocked. When asked if she would accompany the gardai inside, she declined. The gardai went inside to search for Hassan as Waters’ sister in law was quite concerned that her son was not with her.

The court heard there was a background in which a social worker was involved and there had been a child rescue alert or CRI the previous August.

When the gardai went inside, they saw that there was a lot of material that had been torn and put into bags. The apartment was in a state of disarray and small pieces of paper were strewn around the hall.

The body of the child was found in the first room to the left, which was his bedroom. He had been stabbed in his neck, to the left hand side, and gardai established that the child had passed away.

Staining from what appeared to be blood on her jeans and she could not “not give an answer that was of any use,” the court heard.

Gardai then arrested her on suspicion of murder. She was detained at the local garda station and swabs were taken for DNA analysis, along with fingerprints and a foot print.

At the scene in the bedroom, one thing that gardai had noticed was that, just beside the body of Hassan Khan was a footprint in his blood.

This was a match for Waters’ foot. The accused did not recall the events of the actual incident, but otherwise answered the garda questions.

Her phone was seized and tested and texts retrieved from the accused to her friend Annette and her son Jessie.

In the text to her son on the morning Hassan died, she said “they are coming for now. I love you Jessie. Hassan is a fake child and they are making people and children to look the same.”

She referred to cloning and asked her son not to come and see her.  There were also texts from Waters’ sister Olivia and a social worker who was trying to make contact with her.

On October 10, her sister had texted that the social worker, Triona was trying to get in touch.

On October 15, the social worker texted Waters asking if she would be around the following day and if not, to suggest a suitable time to see her.

Olivia then texted to say she had been called by the social worker who needed to meet her.

The last time Hassan was seen alive was at around 6.30pm on October 15, when a number of Ridge Hall residents saw him. The next time anyone saw him was when gardai found his remains the following day.

The court heard on October 16, Waters left the apartment and spent “a considerable amount of time” - up to two and a half hours -  in the Centra shop in Ballybrack before going to her sister’s house.

That morning, she texted her son Jessie and her brother. There was also a missed call text from her social worker, who had gone down to the apartment and could not gain entry, Det Sgt O’Hara said.

At the shop, CCTV showed her walking around, in and out, having coffee and not engaging with anyone there.

In custody, when she was asked about Hassan’s whereabouts, she could not say. She was told she was arrested on suspicion of his murder and she said she would never hurt him.

“I definitely did not harm, my son,” she told gardai. “I would never harm him.”

She described him as a “great, wonderful little boy, a very active little boy, he loved nature and all the things little boys do.”

The prosecuting barrister said the accused had described Hassan as “any mother would describe their two and a half year old child.”

When asked about his death, she was unable to recall, or did not wish to recall,” he said.

“She talked about him in terms of affection and activities he would engage in, how he loved his breakfast, loved making eggs for his breakfast, going on nature trails,” counsel added.

Asked about anything that had happened in the apartment, she had a “blank.”

Waters could not recall sending the text about cloning to Jessie and asked why she would mention cloning, she said “I have no idea.”

She had scrapes on her face and when asked how she got them she also said: “I have no idea.”

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis carried out the post mortem examination. He noted a multiplicity of neck wounds including two deep penetrating wounds. The deepest wound was 10cm deep.

Cause of death was multiple penetrating wounds to the neck, along with blood loss, the court heard.

The DPP subsequently directed a murder charge, after which the accused was transferred to the Central Mental Hospital and has been there since.

Cross-examined by Brendan Grehan SC for the defence, Det Sgt O’Hara agreed that members of the accused’s family stated Waters had begun acting strangely before the killing.

She had been in a relationship with Hassan’s father, Saleem Khan, since 2008 and this “wasn’t always harmonious,” Mr Grehan said.

There was some suggestion that it was abusive both mentally and physically on occasion.

The CRI alert was issued when it was reported that the child had been taken by the father and Waters had serious concerns. Social services became involved and Waters got a barring order, Det Sgt O’Hara agreed.

The court heard the Monday before, Waters took Hassan home from his creche because they were teaching him about “Halloween, witchcraft and Christmas.”

She had felt this was in conflict with her own Islamic beliefs. She had gone from becoming devoted to Islam to being “almost radicalised”, Mr Grehan said. She would insist that others adopt her lifestyle.

Mr Grehan said Waters had been an “exceptionally devoted mother to Hassan, she doted on him and lived her whole life around him.”

Maria Waters had said when the accused arrived at her home, her demeanour was emotionless and she had a blank look on her face, where she would usually be “full on talking.” She had appeared “somewhat disconnected from reality.”

“She was pretty emotionless despite the fact that the gardai were having to bring it home to her that her son was dead,” Det Sgt O’Hara said.

“She was insistent that she definitely wouldn’t have done that to Hassan,” he said.

He told Mr Grehan that when the text  messages were put to her she said they were “very strange messages.”

She was “surprised” when told she sent them, saying “why would I send that type of message?”

Mr Grehan said Waters came from a large supportive family who were regarded as pillars of the community.

Det Sgt O’Hara was not certain if Saleem Khan was in Ireland, saying he might be back in Pakistan.

Psychiatrist, Dr Brenda Wright then presented medical evidence on the accused on behalf of the prosecution.

She said the accused denied having had any mental health issues, she went to school in Killiney, qualified as a beautician and had her first child at the age of 17. The father was a student from Dubai who returned home.

She spent time in the US in the 2000s, was married there and returned to Ireland when the marriage ended. She set up a beautician’s business in 2008.

She may have had an eating disorder when she was younger and suffered depression after her first child was born.

When her mother died in 2008, she did not believe it and thought her siblings had a “sham funeral” to upset her. When confronted about this later, she “brushed it away.”

Late in her pregnancy in 2011, it was noted at Holles Street Hospital that she appeared to be agitated and have anxiety. She was speaking rapidly, displaying disordered thinking and was wearing excessive makeup.

When assessed later, she was calm and coherent.

Continuing to read from reports, Dr Wright said Waters spoke of an acrimonious relationship with her husband.

Waters alleged he assaulted her when she was pregnant in 2009 and she went to have that pregnancy terminated. She alleged he assaulted her again when she was pregnant with Hassan, punching her in the stomach. She further stated that her husband had strangled her in front of Hassan.

Dr Wright said Waters was diagnosed with an emotionally unstable personality disorder characterised by periods of ongoing instability in moods, with intense episodes of anger, depression and anxiety.

She had poor self identity and exceptionally high levels of denial and repression.

Dr Wright said Waters had suffered a “transient pyschotic disorder of acute or abrupt onset”. Her underlying difficulties made her “vulnerable to developing a psychotic episode.”

In relation to Waters’s amnesia of the killing, she said the most relevant possibility was that the accused had found it difficult to tolerate the emotions that would arise if she explored the events.

This was likely a defensive mechanism by which the accused was protecting herself.

Dr Wright concluded that while the accused had been in a psychotic state at the time of the killing there was insufficient evidence that she did not know the nature or quality of her actions, did not know what she was doing was wrong or was unable to refrain from her actions.

In this way, she did not meet the criteria under the Insanity Act whereby a jury could find her not guilty by reason of insanity.

The hearing continues.

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