United Kingdom

Mother, 40, admits suffocating autistic son, 10

A mother has admitted killing her disabled child after suffering a mental breakdown while struggling to care for him weeks after care was removed during the first lockdown. 

Olga Freeman, 40, put a sponge into 10-year-old Dylan's mouth and laid him down to die next to his toys in the master bedroom of her flat in Acton, west London.

Dylan suffered from Cohen Syndrome, a genetic disorder characterised by developmental delay, including disability, small head size, weak muscles, and visibility impairment. 

The court heard Freeman, who is the ex-wife of celebrity photographer Dean Freeman, had struggled to care for Dylan, who was also autistic, in the six months before his death.

Dylan had been attending a special school five days a week, but during the first lockdown last year he was not able to attend school, with the burden of care falling on his mother, the court was told. 

A former carer for Dylan said he had to give up the job, which involved taking the child out to the park 'for a couple of hours so that Olga could have some time to herself', because he found it too demanding, with Dylan 'kicking his arms and legs and throwing things around'.

Rakesh Shukla, who lives in Acton, West London, told MailOnline in August: 'I found it very stressful so I can't imagine what it must have been like for her.

'I only saw her last week and she looked really drained and tired.'

Freeman appeared at the Old Bailey via video-link today from a psychiatric unit and spoke to admit manslaughter due to diminished responsibility. 

Her defence lawyer Jane Bickerstaff QC said she had been 'suffering from a depressive illness with psychotic symptoms'. 

Prosecutor Gareth Patterson QC said the plea was acceptable to the Crown after careful consideration.

Olga Freeman, 40, has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of her disabled 10-year-old son, during a virtual hearing at the Old Bailey

Olga Freeman, 40, put a sponge into 10-year-old Dylan's mouth and laid him down to die next to his toys in the master bedroom of her flat in Acton, west London 

The prosecutor said: 'The defendant was recently transferred to hospital under the Mental Health Act. The prosecution received from the defence a psychological report from Dr David Bird. 

'The partial defence of diminished responsibility is available to the defendant on the basis there was a severe depressive episode with psychotic symptoms at the time. 

'That is acceptable to the prosecution after careful consideration and extensive further inquiries by the officers conducting this investigation.'

FATHER'S TRIBUTE TO 'BEAUTIFUL, BRIGHT, INQUISITIVE AND ARTISTIC SON' 

Dylan's father paid tribute to his 'beautiful, bright, inquisitive and artistic' son after the 10-year-old's death.

Dean Freeman was in Spain when his ex-wife killed their son Dylan Freeman in Acton, west London, a representative said. 

Mr Freeman said in a statement in August last year: 'Dylan was a beautiful, bright, inquisitive and artistic child who loved to travel, visit art galleries and swim.

'We travelled extensively over the years together spending such memorable time in places including Brazil, France and Spain.

'I can't begin to comprehend his loss.'

His representative described Mr Freeman as 'a loving and caring father and even though divorced for a number of years he cherished all the quality time spent with his son', and said he has been left 'beyond devastated'. 

Parts of sponge were found within the throat of the deceased, the court was told.

Joel Smith, prosecuting, earlier told the court: 'A friend and ex-partner of the defendant, Edita Surpickaja had noticed that the defendant had been struggling to met Dylan's care needs for the last year as he became older and bigger and more difficult to care for.

'Around six months ago Dylan's behaviour had become especially challenging.

'Dylan had attended a special school for five days per week but during the lock-down had not been able to attend school. The burden of care had fallen on the defendant with assistance from Ms Surpickaja.

'Ms Surpickaja had only been able to offer that assistance for around 12 hours per week and had noticed a decline in the defendant's mental health.

'The defendant had sought assistance from the local council, but Ms Surpickaja would tell the police, had received none.

'Around 14 August 2020 it appears that the defendant argued with her ex-husband, Dylan's father, about his role in caring for Dylan.

'At the police station the defendant told the police that she had killed the deceased before midnight and that she had tried to ''kill him softly'' by giving the deceased ''a lot'' of melatonin.

'She told the police that as this had not worked she had used her bra and then her hands to kill her son and had put a sponge in his mouth to help him go softly.

'She had then placed his body where he liked to sleep with his toys to allow him to die with 'dignity and kindness'.

'She was then arrested and made no comment.'

Mr Smith said Freeman began to suffer from delusions of grandeur thinking she was 'Jesus'. She told Ms Surpickaja she needed to go to Jerusalem.

'She told her she was the second Jesus,' the prosecutor said.

At Acton police station, she told officers twice: 'I killed my child.'

At the scene a bra, sellotape, and melatonin were recovered by officers, and a sponge.

Ms Surpickaja noticed Freeman had travel websites open and became alarmed by the tone of the conversation.

The recording revealed Freeman saying repeatedly that 'needed to kill her son'.

Freeman told Ms Surpickaja: 'I did what I did, sometimes when things are good, it can be really evil.'

Olga Freeman, 40, who pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of her disabled 10-year-old son, during a virtual hearing at the Old Bailey in London

Freeman, 40, the wife of celebrity photographer Dean Freeman (pictured with his wife), rammed a sponge into 10-year-old Dylan's mouth and before laying him down to die next to his toys 

Police found Dylan dead at the £544,000 flat in Cumberland Park on 16 August after Russian national Freeman walked into a police station.  

A neighbour, who lives opposite the crime scene, said she would often see a little boy leaving the property in a specially adapted van.

Gillian Fisher, 34, said: 'I don't know who the family were but if the little boy is who I think he is, I used to see him being taken to school in his wheelchair in a specially adapted van.'

Dylan's father Dean is the son of Robert Freeman, who took pictures for some of The Beatles' most iconic album covers.

Dean is also a photographer and is best known for his pictures of members of the Spice Girls and David Beckham.

Dean Freeman has also snapped stars such as Bradley Cooper and Emily Ratajkowski.

He earlier said in a statement: 'Dylan was a beautiful, bright, inquisitive and artistic child who loved to travel, visit art galleries and swim.

'We travelled extensively over the years together spending such memorable time in places including Brazil, France and Spain. I can't begin to comprehend his loss.'

Freeman, of Cumberland Park, Acton, denied murder but admitted manslaughter by way of diminished responsibility.

She remains at the medium secure Orchard Unit in Ealing, where she has been treated since her arrest.

The judge, Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb, QC, adjourned sentence until February 11.

Kristen Katsouris, from the CPS said: 'This was a tragic death of a child at the hands of his mother who was struggling to cope.

'Olga Freeman had loved and cared for Dylan for many years, but the strain and pressures of her son's severe and complex special needs had built up and that combined with her impaired mental health led to heart-breaking consequences.

'Our thoughts are with all those affected by this case.' 

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