Hospital order for Durham mum who killed son

Flowers outside the house at Dene View, Castle Eden, where 2 year old Christy Ruddell was living.
Flowers outside the house at Dene View, Castle Eden, where 2 year old Christy Ruddell was living.
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A MUM strangled her toddler son despite desperate efforts by her family to get help for her deteriorating mental health.

Melanie Ruddell took the body of her two-year-old son Christy to Peterlee police station after she killed him in August last year.

Christy Ruddell

Christy Ruddell

Newcastle Crown Court yesterday heard how the mother suffered a “catastrophic mental breakdown” after the breakdown of her marriage to husband Alan.

The 39-year-old, of Dene View, Castle Eden, County Durham, was originally charged with the Christy’s murder, but yesterday prosecutors accepted her guilty plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The court heard in the days leading up to the tragedy, Mrs Ruddell’s family and friends knew she was in desperate need of help.

The family made frantic efforts to get her assistance, which included a trip to the University Hospital of Hartlepool – where Mrs Ruddell was told she would have to wait for two hours before she could undergo psychiatric assessment.

Such was her desire to be with her son, she refused to wait.

Mrs Ruddell eventually suffered “catastrophic mental breakdown” which led to her having delusions that the only way to protect Christy was by taking his life and her own.

She failed in the attempt to kill herself but Christy died at the hands of his mother.

Prosecutor Mark Guiliani told the court: “As a result of the breakdown she took the life of her son. He was two-and-a-half years old.”

Jamie Hill QC, defending, told the court how Mrs Ruddell refused to wait at Hartlepool Hospital because her illness meant she was consumed by a desire to be with her son.

At the time of her death, neighbours said Alan and Melanie had been married for about two years, but had split six months before Christy’s death.

Mr Hill said: “She was a perfectly normal woman, hard working, and well respected at work. Everybody agrees she was a devoted mother to her son.

“Unfortunately, in the months leading up to this tragedy it appears she was suffering what turned out to be an unbearable amount of stress.

“As far as her family are concerned, the tragedy is heightened by the fact they did try do so much in the days leading up to the death of Christy. In particular, taking Mrs Ruddell to hospital in Hartlepool where, unfortunately, the crisis team were dealing with another urgent matter.

“Because of her illness she was consumed by a desire to be with her son and she left. She was told it was going to be a two-hour wait before the psychiatric team could see her.”

Mr Hill said Mrs Ruddell has not expressed any pity for herself in the aftermath of what she did and is consumed by grief at the loss of her boy, who was named after Irish folk singer Christy Moore.

Her family and friends packed the public gallery in support of her during the hearing yesterday.

Mr Justice McCombe sentenced her to an indefinite hospital order where she will receive treatment for her illness.

The judge said: “This case is a truly tragic one.”