Mother killed baby after leaving Christmas party at mental health unit

Hayley MacFarlane, 39, was described as a 'gentle, caring person' who had postnatal depression which developed into psychosis.

Mother killed baby after leaving Christmas party at mental health unit Getty Images

A “gentle and caring” mother killed her baby while taking her for a walk in a pram after they left a mental health unit where she had been treated, a court has heard.

Hayley MacFarlane, 39, had postnatal depression which developed into psychosis and she was deeply concerned that she was failing as a mother to Evelyn, a much-loved and wanted daughter for her and her husband, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

Craig Hassall KC, prosecuting, said MacFarlane killed her five-month-old baby in a Leeds park on December 20 after she left a Christmas party at the unit where she had been receiving mental health treatment as an in-patient.

Her husband was at the family home in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, where he was wrapping presents and preparing the tree, in expectation of his wife and baby being able to join him later that day.

Evelyn had been born healthy in the July and initially health visitors had no concerns, but the new mother became increasingly preoccupied with her wellbeing, Mr Hassall said.

She sought help for her mental health and was prescribed anti-depressants but was worried about the effect that taking the medication would have on the baby, the court heard.

The month before she killed Evelyn, MacFarlane placed her in the kitchen sink and submerged her before she came to and realised what she had done, the prosecution said.

As a response to that incident, which she could not explain to her husband, she admitted herself voluntarily for mental health treatment in West Yorkshire, the court heard.

She was later transferred to a specialist mother and baby psychiatric unit run by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust based near Leeds General Infirmary, where she responded to treatment over time.

After taking anti-psychosis medication she relaxed and continued to improve, Mr Hassall said.

On the day she was to go on to kill her baby, MacFarlane was assessed by a trainee clinical psychologist for a review which recorded that the patient was progressing and doing well, the jury heard.

The mother and baby went to the Christmas party on the unit and then MacFarlane took Evelyn out in a pram for a late afternoon walk – which she was permitted to do – and she appeared to be in good spirits, the court was told.

She texted her husband to say she loved him and the life they had created together with the baby, then shortly later rang him to say that he needed to pull over and that “Evelyn was gone”, the jury heard.

In the dock of the court, MacFarlane broke down in sobs as Mr Hassall told how the mother had then dialled 999 and told the handler how she killed her daughter and that they were in Hyde Park.

Mr Hassall said that in police interviews MacFarlane never sought to deny responsibility for killing the baby.

Psychiatric experts agreed that were it not for her psychosis, MacFarlane would not have killed her baby, the court heard.

There was a hypothesis that she killed Evelyn because she felt she would never do justice to her as a mother.

During discussions about the defendant’s culpability, given the state of her mental health at the time, Mr Hassall said of the offence: “The harm could not be greater and it is difficult to see how the culpability could be any less.”

Louise Blackwell KC, defending, put forward 28 references from people who knew MacFarlane, who herself had worked in mental health services, which told of her being a “gentle, caring person”.

Ms Blackwell said a letter to the judge from MacFarlane indicated how she was a perfectionist and how she now had insight into “what went wrong”.

MacFarlane’s guilty plea to the unusual charge of infanticide, as opposed to murder, was accepted by the prosecution.

Mrs Justice Lambert said she will pass sentence on Wednesday.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code
Posted in