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Mother's torment that led to killing
A MOTHER who carried the lifeless body of her son into a police station after killing him has spoken for the first time about the hours leading up to the tragedy.
Speaking from the hospital where she is being treated for a mental illness, Melanie Ruddell said she was having hallucinations and hearing voices before she strangled her two-year-old son, Christy.
Mrs Ruddell killed Christy at her brother’s home, in West Rainton, near Durham, before driving his body to Peterlee police station, in August 2010.
The 40-year-old, of Dene View, Castle Eden, near Peterlee, was later detained under the Mental Health Act after admitting manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
An inquest, which opened at Sunderland Civic Centre yesterday, heard how in the days leading up to the tragedy last year, Mrs Ruddell began experiencing mental health problems. Family and friends tried to get help, including a visit to the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
But Mrs Ruddell refused to stay at the hospital to wait for a psychiatric assessment by a crisis team and discharged herself before going to stay at her brother’s home.
A tearful Mrs Ruddell gave evidence by video link from a secure hospital unit on Teesside.
She told the hearing she had been a “happy mam” at home with Christy and loved him, but felt anxious and frightened for him.
She said that when she was taken to hospital, she did not want to wait to be seen by a specialist, because she wanted to return home to be with her son. She said: “I was frantic.
I just wanted to get home to see Christy.
“I was confused, very confused.
I was hearing voices screaming. I couldn’t connect anything with reality.
“I was frightened of friends and family. I was scared to a point where it felt as though I was hanging off a cliff.”
However, she said on her return to her brother’s home: “I wanted the police to come and protect us. It was two o’clock in the morning. I thought that’s it – we are going to be separated for ever and ever.”
Carol-Anne Beeston said she had become worried about her friend’s mental health.
Mrs Ruddell had to be persuaded to go by ambulance to the University Hospital of Hartlepool to be assessed.
Staff there wanted a crisis team to see her, but were told it could be several hours before she could be seen, so Mrs Ruddell discharged herself, saying she wanted to go back to her son.
Ms Beeston said: “She was a really good mother, but that weekend she was very agitated.
It was as if someone else was in her body. I had never seen her like this.
“I was frightened she might harm herself. I didn’t think she would harm Christy.”
Ms Beeston, who accompanied Mrs Ruddell to hospital, said: “I actually begged them to keep her in. I knew she should be in hospital – not to be going home. She wanted to discharge herself. There was nothing they could do.”
Ms Beeston said hospital staff had told her there was nowhere to admit her to, so she decided to leave.
Pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton said death was caused by strangulation with a dressing gown cord.
He said there was also a stab wound to the chest, which was up to 40mm in depth, but it had not passed through any vital organs.
The inquest is expected to last two weeks.