County Durham mother admits strangling two-year-old son

Image caption,
A post-mortem examination found the two-year-old had been strangled

A woman who carried the body of her lifeless son into a police station has been detained under the Mental Health Act after admitting manslaughter.

Melanie Ruddell, 39, of County Durham, arrived at Peterlee police station on 9 August last year carrying two-and-half-year-old Christy.

She strangled the boy in what Newcastle Crown Court heard was a sudden and catastrophic mental breakdown.

The judge described it as a "totally tragic" case.

Ruddell, of Castle Eden, had been charged with murder, but her guilty plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility was accepted by the prosecution.

Jamie Hill QC, defending, described the stationery saleswoman as hard-working, well-respected and a "devoted" mother to her only child.

Her marriage was ending and it was while she was staying with her brother that she fatally injured the toddler.

'Save and protect'

Two days earlier she had been taken by ambulance to the University Hospital of Hartlepool after family members expressed concern about her welfare but she discharged herself.

Mr Hill said many of the people in the public gallery were family members who continued to support her.

Afterwards, Det Supt Adrian Green said: "Melanie was a devoted and loving mother, and well-liked professional woman.

"She acted as she did on that day to save and protect Christy from dangers which terrified her.

"Tragically, these fears were part of her mental breakdown and not real.

"I hope people remember Melanie as she was and give her the compassion which someone who is very ill deserves."

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