Man found not guilty of infant son’s murder by reason of insanity at retrial

Yusif Ali Abdi already spent 16 years in jail for the murder before conviction was quashed and a retrial ordered

Yusif Ali Abdi  with an address at Charleville Road, Phibsboro, Dublin 7 was charged with murdering 20-month-old Nathan Baraka Andrew Ali at The Elms, College Road, Clane, Co Kildare on April 17, 2001.  File photograph: Collins

Yusif Ali Abdi with an address at Charleville Road, Phibsboro, Dublin 7 was charged with murdering 20-month-old Nathan Baraka Andrew Ali at The Elms, College Road, Clane, Co Kildare on April 17, 2001. File photograph: Collins

 

A man who spent 16 years in jail for the murder of his infant son has on Friday been found not guilty of the toddler’s murder by reason of insanity after a retrial.

Yusif Ali Abdi was tried before the Central Criminal Court in 2003 for the murder of his son, where a jury rejected his insanity defence and found him guilty of murder by a majority verdict. He subsequently spent 16 years in jail before his murder conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal earlier this year after the court heard he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2013.

The four-day retrial heard that a psychiatrist who gave evidence at the 2003 trial that Mr Abdi was not suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, was now of the view that the man displayed early signs of the mental disorder at the time.

Dr Damian Mohan, a consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, told the court on Thursday that he now has the benefit of three admissions of the accused to the facility following his murder conviction in 2003, which he did not have at the time.

Defence counsel Barry White SC said in his closing speech that Dr Mohan had been “man enough” to say he made a mistake as to Mr Abdi’s mental disorder after being persuaded by reports from other psychiatric experts in the field.

The wife of the defendant, Amanda Bailey, gave evidence in the case, telling the jury that the way her husband has been treated is “beyond cruel” and that no one deserves to suffer in the way he has.

Mr Abdi (46), with an address at Charleville Road, Phibsboro, Dublin 7 was charged with murdering 20-month-old Nathan Baraka Andrew Ali at The Elms, College Road, Clane, Co Kildare on April 17, 2001. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The court had previously heard that Mr Abdi came from Somalia to Ireland in 1997 and was granted refugee status in 2000. He married Irish woman Amanda Bailey and they had a son Nathan, who was born in August 1999.

Loud bangs

A pathologist told his retrial that baby Nathan died from head injuries which were most likely caused from his head impacting at least three or four times against a hard surface such as a wall or floor.

The Central Criminal Court trial heard that on the night of the killing, Ms Bailey and Nathan visited Mr Abdi in his apartment at Clane. Mr Abdi removed his son from his mother’s bed around 4am and took him to the living room, where he locked the door and a number of loud bangs were subsequently heard. When Ms Bailey gained access to the room, the child’s body was limp, his head was swollen and he had blood in his nose. Ms Bailey failed to find a pulse on her son and he was pronounced dead at 5.30am that morning.

Four consultant psychiatrists gave evidence over the last few days that Mr Abdi was suffering from schizophrenia in 2001 and met the requirements for the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

At the outset of the retrial, defence counsel Barry White SC made a number of admissions of fact to the court on behalf of his client including that the accused man caused fatal injuries to his son on April 17, 2001 and rang 999 that night requesting an ambulance for his son.

The jury of seven men and five women spent 17 minutes deliberating on Friday before bringing in a unanimous verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

After they had delivered their verdict, Mr Justice Alexander Owens thanked the jury for their service saying: “This has been a stressful case and a very sad one and your service in relation to it is now concluded.”

The judge exempted them from jury service for the next five years.

Mr Justice Owens then made an order committing Mr Abdi to the Central Mental Hospital for now and he will be back before the court next Friday.

The judge also directed the preparation of a psychiatric assessment by an approved medical officer.

Visit to Africa

During the four-day retrial, Ms Bailey gave evidence she met Mr Abdi in a nightclub on George’s Street in Dublin in May 1998 and they began a relationship that summer.

Ms Bailey testified she was aware Mr Abdi was an asylum seeker and his father had been murdered in the civil war in Somalia. She said she realised in January 1999 that she was pregnant and they got married in May of that year in order to give Mr Abdi legal status in Ireland so he would not be deported. She was very much in love with her husband and Nathan was born on August 30,1999, she explained.

Mr Abdi was arrested in 1999 following an incident with gardaí and Ms Bailey said she felt this event caused her partner to change, bringing back the fear he had once felt in Somalia. She also pointed out that her husband was not the same following a visit to Africa to find his family and depression set in on his return. “Everything was negative, everything against him ... he accused me of making phone calls to people saying bad things about him,” she said, adding that she had told her partner that he needed help from a doctor but he felt he did not have any mental health issues.

On the night of the killing, Ms Bailey said her husband came into the bedroom and carried the toddler out of the room. “I just presumed he wanted Nathan to sleep as he had woken up,” she said. When she was in the toilet she heard some bangs but had no idea what the noise was. The witness said the living room door was locked so she used a high chair to stand up and look through the glass and saw her husband praying. “When I looked in I could see Nathan’s arm, I had no reason to believe he would have hurt him,” she added.

The witness said she then heard her partner on the phone and knew something was wrong. When she got into the room, she wrapped Nathan in a blanket and rang an ambulance as she did not think her husband’s tone on the previous call to emergency services had sounded urgent enough.

Ms Bailey said her son was pale, he had blood in his nose and his body was completely limp when she found him. She failed to find a pulse.

She said her husband had been present when she gave birth to their son and he adored Nathan.

Ms Bailey said her husband had accused her of so many “irrational things”. She agreed he did not want Nathan dressing in red clothes as he said it was the colour of the devil.

Psychotic

Professor Keith Rix, a consultant forensic psychiatrist called by the defence, said in his evidence that Mr Abdi was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the offence.He said Mr Abdi was unable to appreciate that what he did at the time was morally wrong and would have been unable to refrain from committing the act.

Dr Aggrey Washington Burke, a London-based consultant psychiatrist, also called by the defence, said he did not think the fact Mr Abdi had taken anti-malaria drug, Lariam, was a critical factor in his diagnosis of schizophrenia. Mr Abdi fulfilled the criteria for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity as he was unable to refrain from committing the act, he maintained.

Dr Mohan, a consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, was called by the prosecution and explained he gave evidence at the 2003 trial that Mr Abdi was not suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. However he said he is now in agreement with the three medical witnesses, who gave evidence in this trial, that Mr Abdi has a history of paranoid schizophrenia which dates back to November 1999.

Dr Mohan testified that he now also had the benefit of three admissions of the accused to the mental health facility following his murder conviction in 2003, which he did not have at the time.

The witness said that at the time of the killing, Mr Abdi consistently sought to mislead ambulance staff and others by saying the child had fallen. “If someone knows they have done something wrong, they tend to conceal evidence and there was a large effort made to conceal here,” he pointed out. He maintained that the accused would not admit to his psychotic state at the time of the offence due to his post-traumatic stress disorder and refugee status.

Dr Mohan said the accused man knew what he was doing and knew what he was doing was morally wrong but was unable to refrain from committing the act and therefore met the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Dr Alex Quinn, a consultant forensic psychiatrist based in Edinburgh, was also called by the prosecution to give evidence and said he met Mr Abdi in March, 2018. Dr Quinn said the account given by Ms Bailey at her husband’s trial in 2003 had detailed the decline in his mental health in the run up to Nathan’s death and identified his psychotic personality. He said Dr Mohan had not placed sufficient weight on her evidence at the original trial.

Dr Quinn testified that he felt Mr Abdi had first developed psychosis in 1999 and said he would not share the view that the accused was not schizophrenic in 2003.

He said the accused was experiencing a schizophrenic episode at the time of the killing and was unable to appreciate that what he did at the time was morally wrong and would have been unable to refrain from committing the act.