Mum who suffocated disabled son during lockdown given hospital order
A mother who suffocated her disabled son while at her ‘wits’ end’ struggling to cope during lockdown has been given an indefinite hospital order.
Olga Freeman, 40, placed a sponge in 10-year-old Dylan’s mouth before laying him down surrounded by his toys at their home in Cumberland Park, Acton, west London, on August 15 last year.
The lawyer had become increasingly isolated while struggling to care for her autistic son, who required round-the-clock care, the Old Bailey heard.
Dylan’s respite provisions had been cancelled and the special school he attended had closed its doors because of the pandemic.
She had initially been charged with murder but prosecutors accepted a guilty plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Her lawyer, Jane Bickerstaff QC, said that psychiatrists all agreed she was suffering a ‘depressive illness with psychotic symptoms’.
The judge, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, said it was a ‘rare and desperately sad’ case.
The burden of looking after Dylan had taken its toll and by the summer of 2020, with Freeman ‘exhausted’ and having reached her ‘wits’ end’, the senior judge said.
She added: ‘I have no doubt at all that you were a remarkably loving and dedicated mother to a vulnerable child until multiple pressures overwhelmed you and your mind was swamped by a destructive illness with florid psychotic elements.
‘To some unknowable extent, it should be recognised that Dylan was an indirect victim of interruption to normal life caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.’
Dylan had been diagnosed with autism, global neurodevelopmental delay, progressive myopia and significant difficulties with language and communication, self-help and independence.
He required round-the-clock care and had attended a special school five days a week but had been unable to go during the lockdown.
The 10-year-old was suffocated at his home in Acton sometime between August 14 and August 17 last year.
Freeman had a history depression but had been an ‘attentive and loving mother’, the court heard.
Prosecutor Gareth Patterson QC said: ‘However, last year during the first lockdown and through the summer she struggled more and more with her son.
‘Eventually she suffered a mental health breakdown.’
Psychiatrist Dr Martin Lock found Freeman, who had a law degree, ‘developed psychotic symptoms when under very heavy stress because of the Covid-19 lockdown’.
It was made ‘considerably worse by struggling to look after Dylan’ and ‘several times worse because of the Covid-19 lockdown and the closure of Dylan’s school’, he said in his report.
Requests were made to increase support for Dylan’s care but Ealing Council appeared to be ‘slow’ in responding.
Mr Patterson said: ‘What is clear from the police investigation, is that the council does seem to have been slow in determining her requests for increased financial assistance and she felt let down by the council.
‘The role of the council does seem to have been a further source of stress for the defendant at what was a very difficult time.’
Even her request to the council to pay back the cost of toys for Dylan was declined, the court heard.
At the time of Dylan’s death, his father, celebrity photographer Dean Freeman, was in Spain.
He has previously paid tribute to his son, saying: ‘Dylan was a beautiful, bright, inquisitive and artistic child who loved to travel, visit art galleries and swim.
‘We travelled extensively over the years together, spending such memorable time in places including Brazil, France and Spain.
‘I can’t begin to comprehend his loss.’
Kristen Katsouris, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘This was a tragic death of a child at the hands of his mother, who was struggling to cope.
‘Olga Freeman had loved and cared for Dylan for many years, but the strain and pressures of her son’s severe and complex special needs had built up and that, combined with her impaired mental health, led to heartbreaking consequences.
‘Our thoughts are with all those affected by this case.’
London woman admits killing disabled son after breakdown
A woman has admitted killing her disabled 10-year-old son after undergoing a mental breakdown while struggling to care for him during the lockdown.
Olga Freeman, 40, was charged with the murder of Dylan Freeman, who was found dead at their home in Acton, west London, on 15 August.
The boy was found in the master bedroom of the house, covered by a duvet with parts of a sponge in his throat. Toys had been placed beside him.
A postmortem gave the cause of Dylan’s death as restriction of the airways.
After Dylan died, Russian national Freeman, the wife of celebrity photographer Dean Freeman, went to a police station and told officers she had killed her son. She said she gave him “some pills” and “pushed a sponge into his mouth”, said police.
At a virtual hearing on Monday at the Old Bailey, Freeman denied her son’s murder but admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility.
Gareth Patterson QC, prosecuting, said the plea was acceptable to the crown after careful consideration.