Nigerian woman faces trial on manslaughter, child cruelty in UK

A Nigerian woman, Olabisi Abubakar, 42, from Cardiff, is facing trial in the United Kingdom for two counts of manslaughter and child cruelty relating to the death of her three-year-old son, Taiwo Abubakar.

Olabisi, accused of killing her three-year-old son through religious fasting, told police she had “locked herself away” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is being tried before the Cardiff Crown Court where it was revealed that police forced entry to her flat in the Cathays area on June 29, 2020 after a friend raised concerns for her welfare.

Olabisi, who was thin, malnourished and dehydrated, was found lying on a sofa bed next to the body of her son, Taiwo.

Cardiff Crown Court heard Taiwo weighed 9.8 kilos (22 pounds), with pathologist Dr Stephen Leadbetter finding his death was caused by malnutrition and dehydration.

The court heard Olabisi was sectioned on June 30, 2020 and has remained detained in hospital, where she is being treated for paranoid schizophrenia.

The prosecutor, Peter Donnison, told the court that Olabisi was deemed fit for police interview in October 2020 and was interviewed by officers on eight occasions.

In one interview, according to Donnison, Olabisi described “the effect on her of the pressures of not having help, fearing coronavirus for herself and her child, and her immigration status.”

Mr Donnison said: “She described them as depressing. She said she was a religious woman and prayed to God and believed he had heard her and answered prayers and kept them safe.

“She had been taking her child out daily but she had to stop doing that due to the coronavirus. She described herself as locking herself away due to the coronavirus and her neighbour.”

Olabisi had been having issues with a neighbour at the property she was living at in Cwmdare Street, Cardiff, and was an asylum seeker.

The court was told that she is a devout Pentecostal Christian and fasts as part of her faith.

Prosecutors alleged that Olabisi caused her young son to fast of both food and water along with her, due to fears over the coronavirus pandemic and personal pressures.

However, in police interviews Olabisi repeatedly denied this and said children should not fast until the age of 12.

Mr Donnison said: “She said she would dry fast when she wanted to speak to God and hear something from God. She said her child did not fast, he did eat, and she gave him food to eat.”

She told police she had fallen asleep on June 26 and believed she had gone to heaven before being brought back to life when her neighbour and police officers arrived.

Donnison said: “Olabisi Abubakar said she couldn’t explain what happened to her. She was asleep on the bed and that is what she remembered last. She said she believed she was being punished by God.”

In a police interview, Olabisi said: “I saw myself among the dead in heaven. I was saying, ‘I don’t want to die’. Then I saw the angels of God and they brought me back to life.”

The court heard a series of facts agreed by the prosecution and defence in the trial, read by Mr Donnison.

This included evidence that health visitors saw Olabisi and Taiwo before the pandemic and had no concerns, including in relation to her religion and religious practices.

They were not seen by healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 lockdown.

In February 2020, a police officer was called to a noise complaint by Olabisi’s neighbour and attended her room, which he described as “clean and warm”.

Taiwo was seen playing loudly and appeared “very energetic” and healthy, Mr Donnison said.

Police searched the property after Taiwo’s body was discovered on June 29 and found a note on food in a fridge, stating: “Do not touch anything, whooping cough, virus, save yourself.”

Olabisi wrote a series of notes while in an ambulance and in hospital, stating she was “very hungry” and “can’t stand up” as well that Taiwo was dead.

Olabisi told a police officer in hospital: “I don’t eat, I can’t cook, because of coronavirus I can’t go and buy food.”

Doctors found Olabisi was suffering delusions and she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 on June 30 2020, with detention in hospital still ongoing for her to receive treatment.

The jury has been told it is not disputed that Olabisi, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to London in 2011, neglected her son but the issue is her state of mind at the time.

As Olabisi’s trial continues, the court will have to decide whether Olabisi may have been insane, which would make her not guilty of charges against her by reason of insanity.

Caroline Rees KC is expected to open the defence case for Olabisi, who has denied manslaughter and two counts of child cruelty.

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