Lockdown Contributed to Death of Disabled Boy: UK Judge

Entrance to the old block of the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly referred to as the Old Bailey after the street in London on which it stands. The street follows the route of London’s ancient wall, which was part of the fortification’s bailey, hence the name. (Creative commons image via Courthouse News)

LONDON (AFP) — A British judge on Thursday said a severely disabled 10-year-old boy who was smothered to death by his struggling mother was an “indirect victim” of the coronavirus lockdown.

Judge Bobbie Cheema-Grubb said Dylan Freeman’s mother, Olga, was exhausted and had reached her “wits’ end” looking after her son, who required round-the-clock care.

Olga Freeman, 40, admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility and was ordered to be detained indefinitely at a psychiatric hospital.

Sentencing her at the Old Bailey court in central London, the judge called the case “rare and desperately sad.”

“I have no doubt at all that you were a remarkably loving and dedicated mother to a vulnerable child until multiple pressures overwhelmed you and your mind was swamped by a destructive illness,” she said.

“To some unknowable extent, it should be recognized that Dylan was an indirect victim of interruption to normal life caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Olga Freeman walked into a police station on August 16 last year to report she had killed her son, who had extensive physical and mental health issues.

Police officers found him in a bedroom at their house in Acton, west London, covered by a duvet and surrounded by toys.

A post-mortem examination established he died from restriction of the airways caused by pieces of sponge that had been stuffed in his mouth.

The court was told his mother had struggled to cope with looking after her son during the first lockdown and over the summer months, and had a mental health breakdown.

A psychiatrist said she developed psychotic symptoms because of the “very heavy stress” of the stay-at-home restrictions, which was exacerbated by the closure of Dylan’s special school.

Freeman’s ex-husband, the celebrity photographer Dean Freeman, criticized successive governments for not failing to fund properly services helping those with mental health issues and special needs.

The local authority is conducting an urgent review of the case after claims it was too slow to respond to requests for further support.

© Agence France-Presse

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