Ill Lisburn mum suffocates her child to stop him being put into care

The grave of three-year-old Brendan Owens
The grave of three-year-old Brendan Owens

A 29-year-old mother from Lisburn has been found guilty of suffocating her own three-year-old child.

Craigavon Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard how Michelle Owens told her three-year-old son Brendan: "Mummy is going to help you in case the bad men get you."

She then pulled a  black and white pillow case over her son's head before administering her full weight onto the boy's face.

Ciaran Murphy QC, acting for the prosecution, said that Ms Owens had contacted social services in May 2013, stating that she wanted to take her own life.

Afterwards, Brendan was taken into care by Ms Owens' mother.

The court heard that on July 3, 2013, Ms Owens bought a bottle of gin and a bottle of cola.

Later that day, Ms Owen's mother brought Brendan to her.

The next day, July 4, an ambulance was called to the Trinity Terrace home of Ms Owens at 2.15am.

The ambulance crew found Brendan's body on the floor of an upstairs room, with his mother kneeling beside him.

Brendan was described as "blue in colour" and "cold to touch". 

His mother claimed during police interviews that she and Brendan had gone to bed at 9.00pm on the previous evening, and she had awoken to find her son's cold leg against hers in the bed.

The next day Ms Owens signed herself into a psychiatric unit in Lagan Valley Hospital.

It was there that she told staff that she was "worried she would lose her son to social services and that they would put him into a home where he would be abused, and she did what she did to protect her son and said she was sorry for what she did".

She was later arrested and charged with murder.

Ms Owens was later examined at Knockbracken Healthcare Centre in Belfast where doctors unanimously came to the decision that she was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Ms Owens' defence QC told Mr Justice Weir: "This is a tragic situation given the loss of her son and also for Michelle Owens who was a loving mother to her son.

"This is something that she will have to live with for the rest of her life and she has expressed that in writing in a letter to the court."

Mr Justice Weir told Ms Owen that she would be placed under a psychiatric hospital order with no restrictions or limit on time. 

He said: "She [Owens] bitterly regrets the death of her son and that is something she will live with for the rest of her life."