A jury in Salford, England, heard on November 24 that Zak Bennett-Eko tossed his son Zakari into River Irwell on September 11, 2019, BBC News reported. The boy was later pronounced dead at the Royal Bolton Hospital, the outlet continued.
Prosecutor Rob Hall told the jury that the father was experiencing symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia at the time, so he will not seek to convict Bennett-Eko of murder, BBC News said. The prosecutor argued “simply that the defendant … is guilty of manslaughter by reason of his responsibility being diminished by his mental illness,” the news report said.
BBC News said the 23-year-old’s trial is ongoing.
Here’s what you need to know about Zak Bennett-Eko’s case:
Bennett-Eko Believed His Son Was ‘Turning Into the Devil,’ According to Prosecution
In the months leading up to his son’s death, Bennett-Eko said he had been “hearing voices,” Manchester Evening News reported. The prosecution said he was experiencing paranoid schizophrenia at the time and that he had stopped taking his psychosis medication because he believed he could “cope without it,” the newspaper said.
On the day of the incident, Bennett-Eko got into an argument with his then partner, Emma Blood, according to the Manchester Evening News. The prosecution explained that Blood, who was eight months pregnant at the time, told Bennett-Eko that he should start taking care of himself considering their baby was due soon, the newspaper reported.
“It may be that exchange set the seed in Zak’s mind that they would be better off without Zakari,” Hall told the jury on November 24, according to Manchester Evening News.
“Zak would later claim at about this time he saw Zakari’s legs expanding and that he, Zakari, was turning into the devil,” the prosecutor stated, according to the newspaper. The father also thought his son had “killed several people and didn’t belong to him.”
Bennett-Eko left his house shortly after 4 p.m. with Zakari in a “pushchair,” the outlet reported. He told the prosecution that he passed two women who had “eyes like the devil,” who wanted him to drown his son, Manchester Evening News said.
“Mr. Hall said the defendant was seen by two teenagers taking his son out of his pushchair, swinging him from side to side before throwing him into the river below,” Manchester Evening News wrote.
Bennett-Eko was later arrested at a pub after he confessed to what he did, the newspaper said.
Bennett-Eko Was Diagnosed With Mental Health Problems at a Young Age, According to Prosecution
Hall claimed Bennett-Eko had mental health problems from an early age, Manchester Evening News said. The defendant was 17 when he was diagnosed with “psychosis related to cannabis use,” the news outlet reported.
Manchester Evening News said Zakari was born in October 2018, two years after Bennett-Eko began his relationship with Blood.
“The court heard that when the couple moved into their home on River Street in 2018, they started arguing frequently,” Manchester Evening News reported. Bennett-Eko stopped taking his medication and “started to consume cannabis again, which could have re-triggered his psychosis, jurors were told,” the outlet added.
Blood became pregnant again in January 2019, and Bennett-Eko struggled “to cope” with it, the newspaper said. During mental health appointments at the North Manchester General Hospital, the father said he felt paranoid and “wanted to harm himself and others,” according to Hall, the outlet continued.
The prosecutor said Bennett-Eko then disengaged with mental health services, Manchester Evening News indicated. He later moved in with his dad after his relationship with Blood became “toxic” in July 2019, the outlet added.
The move caused Bennett-Eko’s “mental health to deteriorate,” according to Manchester Evening News, increasing his cannabis consumption.
“He then started hearing voices and became quiet and more despondent,” Hall said, the newspaper reported.
Manchester Evening News wrote, “The court was told that in a text found on Miss Blood’s phone on September 2, the 23-year-old told a friend: ‘Everything he says doesn’t make sense. He’s saying Zakari isn’t our baby and stuff.'”
On September 9, Bennett-Eko visited the hospital seeking “to be sectioned,” the newspaper reported. But he left before medics “had a chance to attend him,” Manchester Evening News continued, citing Hall.