North East Wales

Hannah Turtle jailed for life for murdering her baby son

Hannah Turtle and baby James Image copyright North Wales Police
Image caption Hannah James suffocated her seven-week-old baby James and put anti-depressants in his milk bottle

A mother who murdered her baby son after voices told her she was a bad mother has been jailed for life.

Hannah Turtle, 22, from Shotton, Flintshire, suffocated seven-week-old James Hughes in June 2016.

She stopped his breathing on two other occasions before she killed him - both times he was revived in hospital.

Turtle, who changed her plea to guilty during her murder trial at Mold Crown Court, must serve at least 14 years and nine months in prison.

She also admitted five other child cruelty charges including administering poison to him, by putting her anti-depressants in James's milk bottle on two occasions.

Mr Justice Clive Lewis said Turtle suffered from a personality disorder which reduced her culpability and he was not sure she had meant to kill him.

He said James was a baby deserving of his mother's protection but "instead you suffocated him".

In a victim impact statement read out in court James's grandmother Kathleen Hughes described Turtle as "pure evil" and said she did not deserve forgiveness.

The trial had heard how Turtle stopped James breathing on three occasions within a 10-day period, including when she was left alone with him in hospital.

Then on 9 June 2016 she suffocated her son again, this time he did not recover, and died in hospital four days later from brain damage due to oxygen deprivation.

During the trial Turtle told how James fought back when she put her hand over his face, but then went all floppy and white.

A social worker told the trial Turtle had smiled as she told her how she had smothered her baby as he was sleeping in the cot.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption James Hughes died from brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation

Turtle initially denied harming her son when questioned by police but was re-interviewed after she told social workers she had killed him.

The defendant said she wished she had not done it and said she needed help.

She also said she heard voices telling her she was a bad mother, and added that she had been abused as a child, suffered from depression and had mental health problems.

While there had been no evidence of mental illness Turtle had been assessed as potentially having post-natal depression in the days before James's death.

In a statement following her sentencing, James's family said they been through "hell and back" and the family was still "suffering every day".

"James will always be our little angel," the statement added.

Mental health charity Mind Cymru said these sorts of cases were "incredibly rare".

"The overwhelming majority of people with mental health problems are not dangerous," said director Sara Moseley.

"Of the 500-600 homicides each year in England and Wales, the overwhelming majority are committed by people who do not have a mental health diagnosis or symptoms of a mental health problem."

Catrin Attwell, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Turtle had twice administered her own anti-depressants to her son.

"Each time, she made sure there was no-one to witness her cruelty and stayed silent while doctors tried to find a medical cause for James' problems," she said.

North Wales Police said a child protection review by a regional safeguarding board into James's death was ongoing.

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