The mother holds her baby but cannot be left alone with
her. Picture / TV3
A mother who cut her baby's throat was reunited just
months later with the child inside the psychiatric facility
where she was being treated.
After treatment for the "land mine" psychosis which caused
the attack, the mother was allowed back into the family home
- on condition she is never alone with the child.
The woman was found not guilty of attempted murder because
the attack happened during an episode of temporary insanity,
diagnosed later as postpartum psychosis. The baby's name was
suppressed in the court case.
TV3's 3rd Degree tonight screens footage showing the
woman meeting her baby inside a Southland psychiatric
A camera records the mother cradling her tiny daughter just
months after using a vegetable knife to cut her throat.
The father, David, told 3rd Degree his concerns for
his wife started the night before the attack when she passed
out at home.
The mother spent the Saturday night at Southland Hospital on
a drip and was diagnosed with post-natal depression. She was
discharged the following morning and advised to visit her GP
on the Monday.
But she shifted far from reality over the next 24 hours. The
couple rose at 5am with their daughter after a restless night
and the mother took the baby to the living room to feed.
David found her trying to take their baby's life -- and her
"She was hearing things and seeing things that didn't exist
and was saving the baby by killing it. The baby's throat was
cut and [she] was cutting her [own] wrists," he said.
Evidence to the court later revealed the mother had suffered
abuse as a child at the hands of an older relative who then
became a prominent figure in her hallucination.
Their daughter was flown to Starship hospital in Auckland for
life-saving surgery. Her trachea was severed, an artery cut
and a nerve on one side of the voice box also cut. The mother
was kept at Southland Hospital's mental health unit.
She had no recollection of the attack -- David had to break
the news to her in bits, first with a picture of the tube in
their daughter's throat and then explaining how it got there.
"She will never forgive herself," he said. David spoke of
struggles with Child Youth and Family over custody, claiming
the agency at one stage told him he would have to choose
between living with his wife or daughter. "It's a choice no
one in this world should have to make," he said.
In the end, the family were permitted to return home together
-- captured by 3rd Degree cameras -- on condition the mother
was not left alone with her daughter.
An inquiry into Southern District Health Board's handling of
the case -- including admission before the incident --
cleared staff. It called it a "land mine" event which could
not have been foreseen.
Before finding the mother not guilty of attempted murder in
late March, Justice Graham Panckhurst told her "your baby was
cherished and well-loved". He imposed a court order requiring
her to undergo community-based mental health care.
Court reports from psychiatrists were conflicted other
whether she knew the severity of her attack.
Otago University associate professor Phillip Brinded, a
forensic psychiatrist, told the court in a February report
"her psychotic mental state would ... have rendered her
unable of knowing that the act was morally wrong".
- David Fisher of The New Zealand Herald