A mother living in Newcastle, New South Wales, has been found not guilty of murdering her six-week-old daughter on the grounds of mental illness. She violently slit the newborn's throat in July last year.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Richard Furst diagnosed the woman - who cannot be named for legal reasons - with Capgras delusion, smh.com.au reports. Capgras delusion is a rare mental illness in which sufferers are convinced that people they know have been replaced by impostors.
“The accused said she came to believe that her baby was “something else”, like it was ‘not my baby, something else I was holding and had to deal with,’” Dr Furst told the court. The mother also said that she heard “weird voices” and thought the baby was “more like a devil thing I was holding.”
The 26-year-old Senegalese national, who had moved to Newcastle to be with her husband the year before, is not thought to have experienced mental illness during her pregnancy or immediately after giving birth, but became increasingly anxious and depressed in the weeks following.
Her husband noticed the change and supplied her with anti-depressants the day before the tragedy took place.
“I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the accused was suffering from a disease of the mind in the form of a major depressive illness with psychotic features,” Justice Robert Allan Hulme said when he found the mother not guilty. “I am also satisfied that she did not know that what she was doing was wrong in that she was deprived of the ability to reason with even a moderate degree of sense and composure.”
She has been sentenced to confinement in a mental facility.
According to Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA), post-partum psychosis affects one to two in every 1000 women, and one in seven are diagnosed with postnatal depression.
If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing either, you can call the PANDA helpline on 1300 726 306 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.