May 2008

‘Mentally ill’ cannabis mother released by social services to stab two-year-old daughter to death

An Old Bailey judge today criticised social workers after a mother stabbed her young daughter to death days after a police doctor raised questions over her mental health.

Galtricia Ntsimbi, 23, was left to knife two-year-old Trycia Balhous five times before turning the blade on herself.

She was discovered soaked in blood in her east London flat by her mother and half-brother, who were visiting from France in August last year.

One psychiatric report later suggested her use of cannabis may have triggered her “episode of mental illness”.

Five days before the stabbing Ntsimbi had been arrested for harassing a mini-market shopkeeper.

A police doctor examined her and concluded she was suffering from a “fixed delusional disorder” and needed further attention.

She was referred to Barking and Dagenham social services, but there were difficulties in finding a French interpreter for follow-up meetings and she was released on bail without charge.

Today Judge David Paget QC lamented the failure of social services to take the police doctor’s warnings further.

“The forensic medical examiner was sufficiently troubled to say there might be a fixed delusional disorder,” he told the court.

“It seems a thousand pities in retrospect, and of course hindsight is a wonderful thing, that his views were not followed up on more precisely – it might have avoided this tragedy.”

Ntsimbi arrived in London from Paris in late 2006 after splitting from her partner, who claimed she was “unhinged from reality.”

He had reported his former lover’s state of mind after he had seen her throw the baby against a wall and heard a knife banging on the floor. But French authorities refused him custody of the child and granted it instead to Ntsimbi.

Congolese-born Ntsimbi, who held a French passport, set up home in a flat in Barking.

In the summer last year her behaviour became increasingly erratic and she was banned from a shop near her home for harassing the owner.

Neighbours said she walked around in “a daze” and she was seen apparently talking to nobody on her mobile phone in a launderette.

Prosecutor Christopher Tehrani said a referral was made to Barking and Dagenham social services, but no further action was taken.

On the day of the killing, police were called by neighbours and found the baby and Ntsimbi covered in blood with a 25cm knife on the floor.

Ntsimbi had inflicted five stab wounds to her own chest and abdomen. Trycia suffered wounds to her chest, arm and back and died from haemorrhaging and shock caused by the blows.

Today Ntsimbi pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Dr Caroline Arden said Ntsimbi was at the time suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was still mentally ill. She said the attack on Trycia was “unplanned, unprovoked and impulsive” and this behaviour was continuing and required treatment.

Judge Paget ordered that Ntsimbi be detained in hospital indefinitely “in the interests of safety to the public” at the John Howard Centre in Hackney.