Court hears a man who threw son into river thought baby was the devil

Credit: MEN Media

A man who threw his 11-month-old son into a river believed the baby was turning into the devil, a court has heard.

Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia when his son Zakari drowned in the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, on September 11th last year, a trial at the Nightingale court sitting at the Lowry theatre in Salford heard on Tuesday.

Rob Hall, prosecuting, said on the day of Zakari's death Bennett-Eko had argued with partner Emma Blood, who was then eight months pregnant, when she told him he needed to start looking after himself because she would not be able to care for two babies and him.

He said: "It may be that exchange set the seed in Zak's mind that they would be better off without Zakari.

"Zak would later claim at about this time he saw Zakari's legs expanding and that he, Zakari, was turning into the devil."

Shortly after 4pm, while Miss Blood was upstairs, Bennett-Eko left the family home in River Street, Radcliffe, with his son in a pushchair and walked to the river, the court heard.

The jury was told Bennett-Eko later said he passed two women with "eyes like the devil" and that they wanted him to drown his son.

Mr Hall said the defendant was seen by two teenagers taking his son out of his pushchair, swinging him from side to side and then throwing him into the river below.

He then walked to the Lock Keeper pub where he was later arrested after telling another customer what he had done, Mr Hall said.

Zakari was rescued from the river by emergency services at about 5.15pm after the alarm was raised by a number of members of the public.

He was pronounced dead at the Royal Bolton Hospital that evening, the jury was told.

The court heard the defendant had suffered from mental health problems throughout his life and at 17 was sectioned and diagnosed with psychosis related to cannabis use.

Mr Hall said: "His early life was punctuated with exposures to violence and cannabis use."

He began a relationship with Miss Blood in 2016 and in October 2018 Zakari, their first son, was born.

Mr Hall said, following Zakari's birth, the couple argued and Bennett-Eko began to miss GP appointments and started to consume cannabis again.

The court heard Miss Blood sent text messages to friends in September last year expressing concerns about his behaviour.

In one, 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."

In other messages, Miss Blood, 23, said Bennett-Eko had kicked her door in, thrown things at her and claimed popstar Beyonce was his mother.

Mr Hall said, on September 8, Bennett-Eko attended at North Manchester General Hospital.

He said: "Records suggest that he appeared very agitated and wanted to be sectioned having been kicked out of his home by his girlfriend.

"Sadly, Zak left before he was further attended upon."

Jurors were told they would hear from three psychiatrists about the condition of Bennett-Eko, who is in Ashworth secure hospital and is not present for his trial.

The prosecution case is that he is guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility, while the defence case is that he is not guilty by reason of insanity, the court heard.

The trial is expected to last five to seven days.