A woman who drowned and burned her four-year-old daughter in a “sacrifice” has been found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
Carly Ann Harris, 38, was accused of murdering Amelia Brooke Harris at their home after suffering a mental breakdown which made her believe she was saving the world, Newport Crown Court heard.
The jury returned a “special verdict” after hearing that psychiatrists – appearing for both the prosecution and defence – agreed Harris was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
Harris, from Brithweunydd Road, Trealaw, Tonypandy, denied murder and manslaughter and the jury took an hour to return the verdict.
During the two-day trial, jurors were told there was no dispute that Harris killed her daughter or about the events leading up to the incident.
Amelia’s teenage brother found her body, wrapped in a sheet, on a table in their garden in Trealaw, South Wales, on June 8 this year.
Local residents heard screaming and went into the street to see what was wrong, where they saw Harris’s older children, who were visibly distressed.
Neighbour Megan Griffiths saw Harris standing in the front garden, looking “dazed”, and the defendant told her: “God will be with her. The angels have taken her.”
The neighbour dialled 999 and went into the back garden of Harris’s house where she saw Amelia’s charred remains lying on the coffee table covered with a sheet.
When the police arrived at the scene, Harris told them: “The angels told me to do it. Just arrest me. It’s OK.”
One of Harris’s two sons said his mother had “not been well” for some six weeks before the incident, the court heard.
Home Office pathologist Dr Richard Jones concluded Amelia had died from drowning and was already dead when she was set on fire.
Harris had been taking “small amounts” of amphetamines leading up to the incident, but experts agreed she had not been suffering from drug-induced psychosis.
Dr Arden Tomison, a psychiatrist, diagnosed Harris with schizophrenia and said at the time she was suffering from an “abnormality of mental function which substantially impaired her ability to form a rational judgment”.
He said she appeared to have experienced “paranoid and religious delusions” and believed she had to kill Amelia to save the world, and was being tested by God who would then return her daughter to her.
Dr Tomison said that when he examined Harris as recently as a month ago, she was still firm in the belief that she had to kill her child in order to protect her and save the world.
He said that, despite efforts by doctors at a secure institution to get Harris’s psychosis under control, she still believed there had been a “terrible mistake”.
“She could not understand why she was being subjected to psychological treatment,” he said.
“She was very sure she had been instructed by God.”
Dr Tomison said he was “as confident as I can reasonably be” that she displayed signs of insanity.
Another psychiatrist, Dr Phillip Joseph, agreed Harris had suffered from schizophrenia following a urinary tract infection in 2014.
Dr Joseph also said he believed that Harris’s abuse of amphetamines may have “triggered” a psychotic episode, which Dr Tomison said was “possible”.
Dr Tomison added: “But I think it’s the least likely of the options.”
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Picken said he was imposing a hospital order and restriction order without limit of time under the 1983 Mental Health Act.
“This is a deeply sad case in circumstances where you have killed your four-year-old daughter Amelia at your house which you shared with her,” the judge said.
“These facts speak for themselves. A young girl rich in promise met her death at the hands of her own mother in the most horrific manner.
“I am satisfied that you were suffering from a mental disorder, namely schizophrenia, which means it is suitable for you to be remain at a hospital for medical treatment and that is consistent with the jury’s verdict.
“I am satisfied that appropriate medical treatment is available for you but you will transferred to a clinic closer to home.”
Speaking outside court, Harris’s mother Jacqui Harris, who was visibly upset, said: “It’s bittersweet… I am devastated and beyond words.
“I lost Amelia and I lost Carly and the two boys lost their mother and sister and each other.
“I have lost my life.
“I think it is the right verdict and the judge was decent and kind. He has done the right thing.
“I’ve gone beyond tears. She is my daughter and I am devastated and I have lost my daughter.
“All because one doctor wouldn’t take 10 minutes to talk to her.”
Mrs Harris added: “She is not a monster. She is the salt of the earth.”