Sunday 27 May 2018

Mother who killed son (8) had also planned to take her own life

Anthony Ward was due to start second class

Eimear Cotter

WOMAN who smothered her eight-year-old son with a pillow had also planned to take her own life and left a note asking her family to bury them together.

Diane Ward (44) was sitting on her bed with her son Anthony lying dead beside her when gardai arrived at the house in Cork.

He had been due to start second class in the local school on the week he died.

Ms Ward had taken an overdose of paracetamol tablets and gardai found a handwritten note asking to "bury us together".

The Central Criminal Court heard Ms Ward has suffered from recurrent depressive disorder since 1992. She has been admitted to psychiatric hospital twice and previously tried to end her life in 2010.

Mr Justice Barry White this afternoon adjourned sentencing.

He said he is "minded to impose a non-custodial sentence" on 44-year-old Diane Ward.

However, he deferred the decision to allow the appropriate supports be put in place ahead of any release back into the community.

Judge White said it would be “highly inappropriate if Ms Ward was to be released back into society” with no form of back-up or support services.

He adjourned the case for three months, until July 7.

She pleaded guilty last month to the manslaughter of Anthony at the family home at Harrison Place, Charleville, Co Cork on September 3, 2012.

Detective Sergeant Michael Corbett said gardai at Mallow Garda Station received a call from Billy Ward, Diane's brother, at 9.30am on September 3, 2012 saying his sister had contacted him saying she had killed her son.

Sgt Corbett said gardai immediately went to the house, where they found Ms Ward sitting up in a bed in a back bedroom.

Her son Anthony was lying beside her. Gardai checked for a pulse but found none.

Sgt Corbett said Ms Ward told gardai she had killed Anthony by smothering him with a pillow during the course of the previous night.

Sgt Corbett said Ms Ward also told gardai her son went to bed the previous night at 9pm and she went around 10pm. Anthony had a habit of sleeping with his mother.

Ms Ward got up around 3am, and went into the kitchen where she found boxes of paracetamol in an envelope. She took a number of tablets with a glass of water and returned to bed, where she made the decision to smother Anthony.

Sgt Corbett said Ms Ward told gardai she felt strongly that if she took her own life there was no one to look after her son when she was gone.

There was a handwritten note on the envelope containing the paracetamol, asking to "bury us together".

The sergeant said Ms Ward had a difficult relationship with her family, particularly her mother.

The court Anthony was diagnosed with ADHD in 2011 and was prescribed Ritalin, which caused a rift between Ms Ward and her family who had suggested alternative therapies.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Helen O'Neill said Ms Ward has suffered from recurrent depressive disorder since 1992.

Dr O'Neill said Ms Ward's current mental state is stable. She said she is fully aware her child is dead but at an emotional level she is in the very early stages of engaging in the grieving process.

Dr O'Neill said Ms Ward will need considerable time to come to terms with her loss, and a large number of supports will need to be put in place. Anthony was her only child and the centre of her world, and she hasn't visited his grave yet.

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