Belfast man Gary Baird sentenced to seven years for killing wife Susan in home

The family of a man who beat his wife to death with a hammer have called for "improvements and better funding in mental health services across Northern Ireland".

It comes as former BBC security guard Gary Alexander Baird was today (Wednesday) handed a seven-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to a charge of the manslaughter of his wife Susan Baird on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

His sentence included three years jail with four years to be served on licence.

Given the time the 65-year-old served while awaiting trial, he is to be released later this year.

Gary Baird and wife Susan.

The 60-year-old mother-of-four died from catastrophic head injures in the couple's Windermere Road home in the Four Winds area of Belfast on the afternoon of Sunday August 16, 2020.

Speaking after the sentence was imposed, the couple's children issued a statement which said: "As the four children of Susan Baird, we welcome and accept the verdict of manslaughter with diminished responsibility.

"Through our immense heartbreak, we hope to see improvements and better funding in mental health services across Northern Ireland.

"All family members wish to extend their heartfelt thanks to all who have shown kindness, and we ask for privacy as we continue in our grief."

As the couple's four children sat in the public gallery, Baird showed no emotion as Mr Justice McFarland said: "This was a vicious and brutal attack against his wife of nearly 40 years, with a hammer."

Also present for today's hearing where Mrs Baird's siblings.

Justice McFarland said he has read "moving" victim impact statements made by Mrs Baird's children, brother and sister.

He said: "Each statement in its own way spoke eloquently about the devastation caused by the death, about the loss suffered by the sister, brother and children as individuals and also the loss suffered by members of the wider family.

"For everyone this has been a deeply emotional experience, particularly for the children knowing that their mother has been killed in such a brutal way by their father."

Mr Justice McFarland also referenced a statement made by one of Mrs Baird's children, which said: "On the 16th of August 2020, my Dad killed my Mum.

"This will never get any easier to say from me. I struggle to write it, never mind say it aloud and I still find it extremely hard to believe this is our reality."

At the time of her death, Mrs Baird worked as an administrator at Orangefield Presbyterian Church. On the afternoon of her death, she had spend some time working from home until around 2.30pm.

At 4.51pm, Baird called 999 and during the 11-minute phonecall, he admitted he had killed his wife.

During the call, Baird said: "I've just murdered my wife."

He told the operator he had hit her with a hammer and when asked if she was dead, Baird replied "I think so".

Police and paramedics attended the couple's home where they observed a heavily-bloodstained Baird sitting in the kitchen with a wound to his head.

They then discovered Mrs Baird who was lying slumped on a sofa in a small room off the kitchen. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

She sustained catastrophic wounds to her head whilst her husband - who was bleeding from self-inflicted injuries to his head - was agitated and confused at the scene.

Also present was the hammer Baird used in the fatal attack.

Following his arrest, Baird admitted attacking his wife with a hammer and said 'the voices in my head told me to do it'.

Ten days before killing his wife, Baird jumped in front of a bin lorry as it drove down Bedford Street in Belfast which resulted in him being hospitalised.

The court heard that whilst there had been problems within the Baird's marriage, there was no history of domestic violence and that Mrs Baird has been concerned about the decline in her husband's mental health.

She has also expressed fears about his mental state after he was released from hospital following the incident involving the bin lorry.

This, Mr McFarland said, could have been an accident but may well have been an act of self-harm or an attempt at suicide.

It also emerged that prior to the fatal hammer attack, over 570 calls had been made to Baird's GP's practice in a bid to seek help - none of which were answered.

After he was arrested in the aftermath of his wife's death, Baird was sectioned and spent a period of time detained under the Mental Health Act.

He was then moved to prison and subsequently pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter which was not accepted by the Crown.

Baird stood trial earlier this year on a charge of murdering his wife.

The trial commenced in January in front of a jury who heard five days of evidence.

However, as the murder trial was due to enter its second week, a legal issue arose which was dealt with in the absence of the jury.

After making a ruling on the legal issue, trial judge Mr Justice McFarland determined that the jury should be discharged.

The case was listed again in May and on that occasion, Baird pleaded again guilty to a charge of the manslaughter of his wife Susan Baird by way of diminished responsibility.

As a result of further medical reports, this plea was accepted by the Crown with today's sentencing marking the conclusion of the case.

Also reacting to today's sentencing was Detective Inspector Jennifer Rea from the PSNI who said: "The investigation began with the defendant reporting his actions to police.

"While proceedings have concluded with today’s sentencing, I know that the couple’s children, wider family and friends remain submerged in sorrow. My sincere thoughts are with them."

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