A mum who suffered from a personality disorder and stabbed her toddler son to death was sentenced to five years in prison at the Central Criminal Court this morning.
Hazel Waters (aged 47) of Ridge Hall, Ballybrack admitted killing two-year-old Muhammad Hassan Khan between 15-16 October, 2014. Her plea of guilty to manslaughter was accepted and Justice Patrick McCarthy, passing sentence, said her disorder meant that her responsibility for the killing was diminished.
However, he also noted that her treating doctor at the Central Mental Hospital said she had only superficially engaged with doctors regarding the boy's killing. Her doctor described her as "evasive and guarded" and said she refused to discuss what happened to Muhammad Hassan.
Justice McCarthy said he felt that the appropriate sentence would be one of eight to 10 years but taking into account her guilty plea, he reduced that to seven years with two suspended. Ms Waters entered a bond that for four years after her release she will continue to receive medical treatment deemed necessary by the probation services and will reside at a location chosen by the probation services. Her sentence was backdated to October 16, 2014 when she first went into custody.
At a sentencing hearing last month two psychiatrists said that Ms Waters has a personality or adjustment disorder that diminishes her responsibility for the killing.
The court also heard that on the day of the killing Ms Waters sent a text message to her adult son, Jessie that read: "Hassan is a fake child," and added: "They are making people and children to look the same."
She had also claimed that her son and her sister were "clones".
The alarm was raised when, later that day, Ms Waters arrived at her sister-in-law's house without Hassan and was unable to say where he was. She told her sister-in-law, Maria Waters, that "they" had taken him but was unable to say who they were or where they had taken him. Maria also noticed that Ms Waters was carrying a wooden spoon that the child usually carried and that she was not wearing her hijab. Ms Waters had converted to Islam, her husband's faith, and was extremely devout.
Maria called gardaí who went to her home, entered through an unlocked door and found the apartment in disarray and the child dead in the bedroom. A post-mortem showed that he had suffered multiple wounds to his neck from a pair of scissors. A number of the wounds were superficial but Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis identified two wounds, one 10cm in depth, that caused the boy's death.
When gardaí interviewed Ms Waters she said she couldn't remember harming the child, that she would never harm him, and she didn't know what had happened to him. When the text messages to her son were read to her she described them as "bizarre" and said she couldn't remember sending them.
Det Sgt O'Hara agreed with Brendan Grehan SC, defending Ms Waters, that she had been married to a man named Saleem Khan and had taken a barring order out against him after he took Hassan away from her. Gardaí were called and the social services had become involved with the family as a result of that incident. In the weeks before the killing Ms Waters's family had become concerned about her mental health.
Dr Brenda Wright of the Central Mental Hospital said she wrote a report on Ms Waters on behalf of the prosecution. In the report she noted that Ms Waters's history suggested that she had a mental health issue for some years.
Her relationship with Mr Khan was "difficult". They had married shortly after they met and Ms Waters said he would become violent for no reason. She said he assaulted her while she was pregnant and that he had attempted to strangle her on two occasions.
Concluding her report, she said that Ms Waters had a personality disorder characterised by instability, mood swings, intense episodes of anger, depression and anxiety that could last hours or days. At the time of the killing she said she was suffering from an acute and transient psychotic disorder that could have caused delusions, hallucinations and bizarre behaviour. However, she said there was insufficient evidence to say whether she qualified for Section 5 of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, which allows a person to be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Dr Wright said she could not make that assessment because Ms Waters claims to have no memory of the killing and therefore her state of mind at the time cannot be established. She said amnesia is probably a method Ms Waters uses to cope with traumatic situations by blocking them out.