Manchester: Father who threw baby son into river had begged to be sectioned three times

Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, was sentenced to a hospital order last year after being found guilty of the manslaughter by diminished responsibility of his son Zakari.

Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, had been ‘lost’ in the care system in the months before he killed son Zakari. (Picture: MEN Media)

A father who threw his baby son into a river had begged to be sectioned in the days before the tragedy unfolded, a serious case review has found.

Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, believed son Zakari was ‘turning into the devil’ when he dumped him off a bridge into the River Irwell in Radcliffe in Bury, Greater Manchester, on the afternoon of September 11 2019.

He was sentenced to a hospital order last year after being found guilty of the 11-month-old baby’s manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

At the time of his sentencing, judge Mr Justice Fraser said the Bennett-Eko had ‘slipped through the net’ of mental health services in the period leading up to the incident.

A review published by Bury Integrated Safeguarding Partnership found Bennett-Eko had been known to the care system but had been ‘lost’ and his needs had been ‘neglected’ when he was moved along with the toddler’s mother, Emma Flood, from Manchester to Bury.

The relocation in 2018 meant the couple were socially isolated and increasingly vulnerable.

Concerns were highlighted that the first-time parents were ‘living within a context of low income, lack of appropriate housing and away from their social and family support networks.’

Due to his worsening condition, Bennett-Eko went to the A&E department at North Manchester General Hospital on September 8 – just days before the tragedy.

A father asked to be sectioned three times before killing his 'happy' 11-month-old baby during a psychotic episode, a major review has found. Zakari William Bennett-Eko was 11 months old when his dad threw him into the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, on 11 September 2019. Caption: Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, who has been given an indefinite hospital order after he was found guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility

Bennett-Eko was not taking his medication at the time (Picture: MEN Media)

He told staff he had not been taking prescribed schizophrenia medication and asked to be sectioned.

It’s known that he had attended the same hospital at least twice before in the previous month but delays meant he was not given treatment in time.

Three days after his last trip to A&E, Bennett-Eko took baby Zakari out for a walk in his pushchair in Radcliffe, while Ms Flood remained at their flat.

Eyewitnesses saw him pick his son out of the pram then swing the boy backwards and forwards before throwing him over a fence and into the river.

Zakari was just 11 months old when he died (Picture: MEN Media)

Bennett-Eko went to the nearby Lock Keeper pub and sat at a table while emergency services scrambled to the scene in an attempt to save his baby’s life.

He was later arrested at the pub and charged with murder but this was then downgraded due to his paranoid schizophrenia and severe state of psychosis.

The review found Bennett-Eko had been discharged from a learning disability service in Manchester due to a lack of attendance.

It said: ‘The result was that (he) became “lost” and his needs neglected by the care system in Manchester, including the key element of a responsible clinician to oversee his medication.’

Zakari died due to failings with the system, the review found (Picture: MEN Media)

A ‘flawed’ assessment was carried out by Bury Children’s Social Care in May 2019 which did not take into account the risks of Bennett-Eko not taking his medication and reverting to cannabis use.

The serious case review, led by Paul Sharkey, listed 13 failings which combined to produce a ‘pathway to harm’ for Zakari.

Tony Decrop, assistant director of social care and safeguarding at Bury Council, said there had been a failure to ‘appreciate fully’ the risk Bennett-Eko posed to his young son.

He added: ‘All the agencies involved are truly sorry for what happened and are determined to do all they can to prevent, so far as humanly possible, something like this happening again.

‘We have already learned from the review of this case and action has been taken as a result’

Bernadette Enright, executive director of adult social services for Manchester City Council, said: ‘This was a complex case with multiple factors and a distressing and extreme conclusion. It’s important for all agencies involved in this case to reflect on the run-up to these tragic events and use learnings to strengthen practice.’

Julian Hendy, of the Hundred Families charity, said: ‘Zakari’s father had a concerning history of serious mental illness and violence which was known to services, but he was not followed up and monitored as he should have been.

‘He too was vulnerable, yet despite asking for help on numerous occasions he didn’t receive the care and treatment he so desperately needed. Had he done so young Zak might still be with us today.’

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