Reid Steele: Bridgend mother who drowned son 'while suffering paranoid delusions' is detained

Natalie Steele, 32, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her son Reid. Credit: Media Wales

A "devoted" mother drowned her two-year-old son in the bath after becoming fixated with the idea her family were possessed by demons.

Natalie Steele denied murder, but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after two forensic psychiatrists found she had been mentally ill when she killed her son.

The 31-year-old was detained under the Mental Health Act today (3 May).

In the months before the killing, Steele had reported having delusions, including seeing floating orbs and believing that her family had been possessed by spirits.

Two forensic psychiatrists agreed Steele was suffering from an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, and the Crown Prosecution Service did not seek a trial for murder.

Detaining Steele under sections 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act on Tuesday at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge Michael Fitton QC described the case as “a profound human tragedy”.

Natalie Steele was arrested after her son Reid was found unresponsive at the home she shared with her family in Parkwood Heights, Broadlands, Bridgend, on the evening of August 11 last year.

Reid was taken to hospital from an address in the Broadland's area of Bridgend

The little boy was pronounced dead in hospital the following day.

She told police she needed to protect her son by sending him to heaven.

At her sentencing hearing, prosecutor Michael Jones QC said Steele had been behaving oddly in the days leading up to her son’s death.

Mr Jones said Steele’s family described her as a “devoted mother” who was inseparable from her son “from day one” but that they had been concerned when she reported hearing and seeing things.

She had told her mother, Amanda Prescott, that she had been “seeing lights” and told her “demons are dark and real”.

Steele also told Mrs Prescott “the rooms feel different”.

The night before Reid’s death, the defendant had been on a camping trip with her church in New Quay, west Wales, but friends became concerned when she demanded to be immediately baptised.

A friend within the congregation, Heidi Ackland, who was not on the trip, drove to New Quay early on the morning of August 11 to speak to Steele and persuade her to come home with her.

Ms Ackland described Steele as “speaking gibberish” and telling her that she had to be a sacrifice.

On the journey home, Ms Ackland noticed that Steele was compulsively checking on her son in his car seat in the back, saying things like “I love you Reid” and also kept taking her own seatbelt off.

The witness said she feared the defendant might try and leave the moving vehicle.

'I've done something terrible'

Later that evening, after dropping Steele at the home she shared with her mother, step-father and brother, she received a text from her saying: “I’ve done something terrible, I had to protect Reid from my family.”

When she arrived at the property, she found the emergency services were already there.

Steele’s mother Amanda Prescott told police her daughter had taken her grandson for his bath at around 6pm on August 11, but had come downstairs at around 7.30pm saying: “I think I done.”

Her mother said Steele was not speaking in full sentences, just words like: “I done it.”

Mrs Prescott said she had “gone into panic mode” and rushed upstairs to find Reid unconscious and wrapped in a towel on the bathroom floor.

Tributes were paid to remember the toddler who died at his home in Broadlands, Bridgend.

Steele later told police officers she had been playing “cups of tea” with Reid in the bath and had breast fed him before holding him underwater.

The defendant said she was “really worried” about her family, saying they had “creepy eyes” and adding that she had “problems with spirits” and “spirits had been touching her”.

She told her mother: “I felt I had to protect him from you”.

In her police interviews, she said her mother, step-father and siblings had “big eyes” and “contorted” faces, and she believed they were possessed by demons.

A forensic psychiatrist’s report later found Steele had been suffering from “as unrecognised, undiagnosed and untreated mental illness”.

It continued: “[Steele] was so deluded that she drowned her son to protect him from demons and send him to heaven.”