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Father arrested in pub after tossing baby into river, calling him ‘the devil’

A man has been found guilty of killing his 11-month-old son by throwing him into a river.

Zakari Bennett-Eko died after he was pulled from the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, in September last year.

A court heard his father Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, believed his child was turning into the devil.

He has been convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Bennett-Eko, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, will be sentenced on Tuesday.

A six-day trial at the Nightingale court, sitting at the Lowry theatre in Salford, heard Bennett-Eko left the family home in Radcliffe with his son in a pushchair on 11 September last year.

Jurors were told Bennett-Eko later said he passed two women with “eyes like the devil” and that they wanted him to drown his son.

He was seen throwing Zakari into the river before walking to the Lock Keeper pub nearby where he was later arrested.

‘Legs expanding’

Prosecutor Rob Hall said Bennett-Eko’s partner Emma Blood, who was eight months pregnant, told him on the day of Zakari’s death that he needed to start looking after himself because she would not be able to care for two babies and him.

“It may be that exchange set the seed in Zak’s mind that they would be better off without Zakari,” he told jurors.

“Zak would later claim at about this time he saw Zakari’s legs expanding and that he, Zakari, was turning into the devil.”

In text messages read in court, Ms Blood told friends he had kicked her door in, thrown things at her and claimed Beyoncé was his mother.

The court heard Bennett-Eko, who was too unwell to attend the trial, had contacted the hospital and his doctor’s surgery a number of times in the days before the incident.

Bennett-Eko, who was diagnosed with psychosis related to cannabis at the age of 17, asked to be sectioned at North Manchester General Hospital three days before he killed his son but left before he could be assessed.

During his evidence, psychiatrist Dr Inti Qurashi said Bennett-Eko told him he hesitated before he threw Zakari into the river.

Summing up the case, judge Mr Justice Fraser said: “Dr Qurashi said he considered the hesitation before the baby was thrown into the river an important point and said it showed the defendant knew what he was about to do was wrong.”