A woman on trial for the murder of her toddler told gardaí she was overwhelmed and felt totally alone after her child was diagnosed with autism.

The woman, who cannot be named by order of the court, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The court heard the woman smothered her child who was taking an afternoon nap on the couch in their family home.

In the 48 hours up to the killing she had carried out internet searches on suicide and mothers killing their autistic children. She had been convinced her child had a more severe form of autism when in reality the diagnosis was at the mild end of the spectrum.

A consultant psychiatrist called as a witness for the prosecution told the court the woman was suffering from a severe depressive disorder with an element of psychosis at the time. She had an abnormal preoccupation with her child's diagnosis and was suffering from catastrophic thinking, believing her child's prognosis to be much worse than it was.

The court heard the woman had become obsessed and was devastated at her child's diagnosis. While the diagnosis was one of mild or borderline autism, she was convinced her child had a much more serious form of the condition and that she would not get adequate supports.

She was fearful for her child's future and felt it could ruin the life of her other child.

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In her garda interviews the woman said she had been thinking about killing her child and ending her own life in the days leading up to the killing.

She did not tell a counsellor how she was feeling because she was "head set on going ahead with it".

She didn't know if it was a temporary thing on her mind or if she would go through with it.

On the day itself she went to the supermarket leaving her children with her partner. When she returned her partner went out with their other child. Her eldest child was asleep on the couch.

She received a text message from her mother about meeting the follow day but minutes later went upstairs to get a pillow.

Her child use a small Paw Patrol pillow for naps but she took a larger Mini Mouse pillow from the bedroom and used it to smother her.

She told gardaí the child struggled and screamed. In another interview she recalled the child calling out for her Daddy. She stopped when the child stopped moving.

She wasn’t sure if she had stopped breathing and called emergency services because she wanted someone to come and take over.

She was talked through CPR on the phone and tried two chest compressions which she said was strange considering she had just put a pillow over her child.

Gardaí asked if she fully comprehended what she was saying and she replied: "I don’t know."

She also said: "I don’t know how to manage her. What mother does things like that? I’m sorry it’s come to this, I’m sorry for what I have done."

She also told gardaí it all seemed unreal and had not immediately hit her. Later she said she wished she could undo what she had done and said: "Just seeing the paw patrol pillow...I’m starting to realise what I did.
It was all go, go, go, I had to do it."

The woman said she wanted to cry but had been unable to cry for the past few months. She said she was feeling overwhelmed but was trying her best.

"I just lost hope for the life [the child] could lead," she said.

When asked in her garda interviews if she wanted her child to die, she said "Yes". She said she had been "living a nightmare" and it was a build up of stress.

She also said what she did was "very wrong" adding: "I was in a panic, I do regret it, I should have got help for myself. I should have told the counsellor."

At the time of her arrest her child was still on life support but died three days later. Asked if she had something to say to her child she replied "I would say I'm so, so sorry".

The woman's partner said she had convinced herself that their child had PDA which does not respond to the usual treatments for autism. Although the psychologists had told them their child had at the very worst mild autism she had also said the profile PDA did fit and she would send on her report.

He said they had received a final report about their child's diagnosis on the Thursday before the incident but it was password protected so they could not access it. He was going to complain to the practice about the manner in which the report was sent but his wife said not to bother. He said she seemed to be accepting of the diagnosis and was beginning to come to terms with it.

The woman's partner said he left home that day and his child was watching cartoons and seemed quite happy. He had no reason to be concerned although in hindsight his partner seemed a bit distant.

He said "I never blamed her for what happened, I knew it had to be a psychiatric event. She was so loving. I'm not blaming her, I know it was depression that caused this. When I met her I thought I had won the lotto."

Dr Sally Linehan a Consultant forensic psychiatrist in Central Mental Hospital, said the woman suffered from a recurrent depressive disorder.

In the months leading up to the killing she had a number of stressors, chief among them being the primary carer for two small children, one of whom had behavioural issues. 

She had a "morbid preoccupation" with the issue of her child's diagnosis and suffered from catastrophic thinking.

Dr Linehan said the woman developed a conviction that the only course of action was to kill her and then commit suicide and her beliefs were held with delusional intensity and were really out of keeping with reality.

She said she was satisfied that she was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the offence. While she understood the nature of what she was doing she would not have known it was wrong and would not have been able to refrain from doing it.

"She was so preoccupied with the delusional belief that she must kill her child to end its suffering and that her other child could have a good life that she was unable to appreciate that what she was doing was wrong."

Dr Linehan said she was satisfied that the woman fulfills the criteria for a defence of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Earlier, the court also heard that family members described the woman as sending "alarming" texts messages in the run up to the child's death.

In one she had said "I'm cracking up, I can't handle this."

A friend said she had been very stressed and convinced her child had the more severe type of autism and that the borderline diagnosis was not right. She told her the psychologist had agreed the symptoms might fit.

She had texted this friend to say "I'm numb. Anything I have seen about it on the internet looks horrible." The friend made her phone available to gardaí to see the text messages because she said she wanted them to see that the woman was reaching out to people and was "a lovely mother".

On the day of her arrest she told gardaí she had suffered from very low mood in the day before her child's death and had thought about taking her own life and smothering her child.

A GP who visited her while in a Garda station had sought urgent psychiatric admission but no place was available and they were advised to seek it through the court system.

After she appeared in court she was briefly remanded in prison but the psychiatric team there quickly requested her admission to the Central Mental Hospital where she remained for some time.  

The case continues tomorrow.