Who is Zak Bennett-Eko? Man flings infant son into river after thinking the 11-month-old was turning into devil
Bennett Eko, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, has now been found guilty of manslaughter
A father who threw his 11-month-old son into a river has been found guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility. 23-year-old Zak Bennett Eko was seen throwing his son Zakari into the River Irwell in Radcliffe in Greater Manchester on September 11 last year. He then walked to a nearby pub where he was arrested. The baby passed away after being fished out.
A six-day trial in the Nightingale Court at the Lowry was made aware that Bennett-Eko suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had believed that his child was turning into the devil. His defense case was that due to his mental state, he did not know that what he was doing was wrong by the standards of reasonable and ordinary people. His defense believed that he should not be found guilty by reason of insanity. However, the prosecution had argued that Bennett Eko who had been charged with murder should be found guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility. As the verdict was delivered, a few people from the public gallery cried 'yes'.
The court was made aware that the accused had been too unwell to attend the trial and had contacted the hospital and his doctor's surgery many times prior to the incident. The jury was told that he was asked to be sectioned at North Manchester General Hospital on September 8 but had left before he was seen. He had been diagnosed with psychosis related to cannabis at the age of 17 and had started to miss GP appointments post Zakari's birth. According to text messages, his girlfriend Emma Blood told friends how he had kicked her door in, thrown things at her, and had claimed that singer 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." On that fateful day, he had taken his son out in his pushchair around 4 pm while Blood had been upstairs in their home and was 8 months pregnant with the couple's second child. Blood had also told Bennett Eko that he needed to start taking care of himself as she would not be able to care for him and two babies. Prosecutor Rob Hall said, "It may be that exchange set the seed in Zak's mind that they would be better off without Zakari."
Psychiatrist Dr Inti Qurashi said the defendant had told him that before he flung his son into the river, he stopped and thought, "What the f**k am I doing." The judge 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, Bennett Eko's treating clinician Dr John Crosby said to the court that the accused was convinced that he was throwing the devil into the river at the time of the incident.