Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, was suffering from schizophrenia, and the pressure from waiting to welcome a second child may have tipped him over.
Trigger Warning: This article contains graphic details that some readers may find distressing
Most of us would find it unthinkable that a father could be so cruel that he would fling his own child into a river. It is rare for something like this to happen and there is a tragic reason why this man could not be a good dad to his son.
Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, was seen throwing his son, Zakari, into the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, UK, on September 11, 2019, according to Daily Mail. He then walked to a pub nearby where he was eventually arrested. Unfortunately, the child had died by the time he was pulled out of the river at 5.15 pm. It would be easy to brand the dad as a monster but he was just someone who slipped through the cracks in the system. Zak was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and required help for his failing mental health, but seems like he went uncared for.
There were many signs that the 23-year-old was going through an episode. He thought that his child was 'turning into the devil' and his defence said that he did not know that his actions were wrong by the standards of reasonable people and he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. However, the prosecution argued that he should be guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility, which is what happened.
Some people rejoiced the verdict but the 23-year-old was not at fault entirely. He tried to get help by contacting the hospital multiple times before the incident. In fact, he was too unwell to even attend the trial. He was diagnosed with psychosis related to cannabis at the age of 17, but he started missing his appointments with his doctors after his son was born.
On September 8, he had gone to the North Manchester General Hospital but left before anyone could take a look at him. He had started acting violently and kicked his girlfriend's door in. Emma Blood, his girlfriend, told her friends in text messages that he threw things at her and made the claim that pop star Beyonce was his mother.
In one message, she said: "He's saying Zakari isn't our baby and stuff. One second he's OK, the next minute he's going mad saying he's going to kill himself." Zak shouldn't have been left alone with his child but on September 11, he took his son out at about 4 pm when Emma, 8 months pregnant with their second child, was upstairs in their home.
Emma had told the 23-year-old that he needed to start caring for himself as she won't be able to look after two babies and him. "It may be that exchange set the seed in Zak's mind that they would be better off without Zakari," said Rob Hall, the prosecutor.
A psychiatrist, Dr. Inti Qurashi, who gave evidence during the case said that Zak had hesitated before throwing his child in the water body. He thought, "What the f*** am I doing." The hesitation on his part showed that he may have been somewhat cognizant of his actions.
Justice Fraser said, "Dr. Qurashi said he considered the hesitation before the baby was thrown into the river an important point and said it showed the defendant knew what he was about to do was wrong." However, the 23-year-old's treating clinician Dr. John Crosby told the court the defendant believed he was throwing the devil into the river at the time. Dr. Melanie Higgins, clinical director at Ashworth high secure hospital, where Zak was being held, agreed with Dr. Crosby.
Bennett-Eko, 23, was sentenced to a hospital under section 41 of the 1983 Mental Health Act after having been found unanimously guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility by a jury, as per Manchester Evenings News UK.