Dad guilty of killing his baby boy he threw into river – but cleared of murder

Zak Eko, 23, has been found guilty of manslaughter (Image: MEN Media)

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A dad has been found guilty of killing his 11-month-old son he threw into a river – but has been cleared of murder.

Zak Bennett-Eko flung his baby, Zakari William Bennett-Eko, into the River Irwell in Radcliffe on September 11, 2019.

Zakari was found to have died from hypothermia, drowning, or a combination of the two, when his body was pulled from the river, the Manchester Evening News reports.

During the trial over the baby's death, Bennett-Eko's defence team argued that the defendant was not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

The prosecution alleged he was guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

Bennett-Eko told doctors that he "believed his son was the devil and that he was being told to drown him" at the time of the crime, after spiralling into a severe state of psychosis, the Lowry Nightingale court heard.

Zakari William Bennett-Eko died aged 11 months
(Image: MEN Media)

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The father is currently residing at Ashworth secure hospital and was not present for the trial.

After less than three hours of deliberations, the jury came back to court to find Bennett-Eko guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility today.

The court is seeking further psychiatric evidence to decide what kind of sentence Bennett-Eko will receive.

The man said he started hallucinating, seeing his baby's "legs expanding".

Little Zakari pictured with his mum Emma Blood
(Image: MEN Media)

The man had attended A&E six times in the weeks leading up to the crime, seeking help for his mental health, the court heard.

However, he was never admitted to hospital as a result of those visits.

The jury was told that because of his "superficially calm" exterior, doctors did not recognise his "seriously disturbed" mental state – despite him telling staff that he wanted to be sectioned.

Shortly after 4pm on September 11, Bennett-Eko left the family home on River Street, Radcliffe, with his son in a pushchair.

A memorial to tragic baby Zakari
(Image: MEN Media)

He walked to the riverside and passed by a blue Ford Focus driven by a man who nodded at him.

Bennett-Eko claimed the nod "specifically indicated" that Zakari was the devil and had to be drowned.

On the day of his son's death, Bennett-Eko was seen "swinging his son from side to side" before throwing him into the river.

The man then was seen walking into the nearby Lock Keeper pub "as if nothing had happened" before telling other customers what he had done, the jurors heard.

Police then arrived to arrest him as he sat "calmly" at a table and gave his details.

When he was in custody, he asked for his dead mother to be contacted and called an officer "Uncle Steve", the court heard.

Two psychiatrists said they believe that Bennett-Eko reaches the legal threshold for being declared insane.

The baby's mum was heartbroken when she found out what happened to him
(Image: MEN Media)

Dr Higgins and Dr John Crosby, who work at the secure hospital where the man now lives, said he really believed his son to be the devil and thought "killing the devil is not wrong".

Dr Crosby said that Bennett-Eko's lack of attempt to save his son shows "how grossly disturbed his mental health is".

The doctor said: "He seemed very confused and may have been hearing voices as his eyes were looking around unusually. He did not look like he was aware of his surroundings.

"Although he did know what he was doing was wrong, he did not know what he was doing was wrong.

Tributes to Zakari at the scene where he died
(Image: MEN Media)

"He believed due to hallucinations that his son was the devil, and therefore it's not legally wrong to kill the devil."

However, another psychiatrist said the thinks Bennett-Eko is able to think rationally.

Bennett-Eko admitted that he hesitated before throwing his son, added the medic, saying he believed that shows the defendant "was able to understand his actions and that they were wrong".

He will not be present for his sentencing tomorrow.

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