A church-going mother who drowned her two-year-old son in the bath after believing she was possessed by demons was today detained under the Mental Health Act.
Natalie Steele, 32, had been playing with ‘super happy’ Reid Steele in the bath at the family’s £600,000 home in Bridgend, South Wales in August last year when she suddenly held the child underwater ‘to send him to Heaven’.
The toddler was revived by paramedics but died in hospital of drowning and hypothermia the next day.
Steele denied murder, but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after two forensic psychiatrists found she had been mentally ill when she killed her son.
The mother-of-one told police she needed to protect her son from her own family and their ‘creepy eyes’ by sending him to Heaven.
Steele was today sentenced to a hospital order under the Mental Health Act, where she will receive treatment.
Judge Michael Fitton QC told her: ‘All life is precious and the value of Reid’s young life is beyond calculation or measure but likewise the impact of his death on those who loved him is equally also beyond calculation or measure.
‘You saw him lose his life. It’s a profound human tragedy that it was you who loved him so dearly who caused that loss of life.
‘You did so while suffering from a serious and severe mental illness. his was a killing committed by a delusional psychotic intent brought about by your uncontrollable and profound mental illness.’
Natalie Steele, who has admitted killing her two-year-old son Reid
Reid Steele was described as ‘super, super happy’ by his family
At her sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court today, prosecutor Michael Jones QC said Reid’s mother Steele had been behaving oddly in the days leading up to her son’s death.
Mr Jones said Steele’s family described her as a ‘devoted mother’ who was inseparable from her son ‘from day one’ but that they had been concerned when she reported hearing and seeing things.
She told her mother, Amanda Prescott, that she had been ‘seeing lights’ and told her ‘demons are dark and real’. Steele also told Mrs Prescott ‘the rooms feel different’.
The court heard Steele had been interested in ‘New Age theories’ – and had become a Christian in the months before Reid’s death by attending church regularly.
She and Reid were on the church-organised camping trip when fellow campers became concerned about her behaviour and asked a friend to collect her.
Friend Heidi Ackland drove to the campsite near New Quay in West Wales to visit Steele and see how she was before deciding best to bring her and Reid home.
The night before Reid’s death, the defendant had been on a camping trip with her church in New Quay, west Wales, but friends became concerned when she demanded to be immediately baptised.
Ms Ackland, who was not on the trip, drove to New Quay early on the morning of August 11 to speak to Steele and persuade her to come home with her.
Ms Ackland described Steele as ‘speaking gibberish’ and telling her that she had to be a sacrifice.
On the journey home, Ms Ackland noticed that Steele was compulsively checking on her son in his car seat in the back, saying things like ‘I love you Reid’ and also kept taking her own seatbelt off.
The witness said she feared the defendant might try and leave the moving vehicle.
Later that evening, after dropping Steele at the home she shared with her mother, step-father and brother, she received a text from her saying: ‘I’ve done something terrible, I had to protect Reid from my family.’
When she arrived at the property, she found the emergency services were already there.
Steele’s mother Amanda Prescott told police her daughter had taken her grandson for his bath at around 6pm on August 11, but had come downstairs at around 7.30pm saying: ‘I think I done.’
Her mother said Steele was not speaking in full sentence, just words like: ‘I done it.’
Undated handout file photo issued by South Wales Police of Reid Steele
Flowers, tributes and toys left near where Reid Steele was found dead in Bridgend, Wales
Mrs Prescott said she had ‘gone into panic mode’ and rushed upstairs to find Reid unconscious and wrapped in a towel on the bathroom floor.
Steele later told police officers she had been playing ‘cups of tea’ with Reid in the bath and had breast fed him before holding him underwater.
The defendant said she was ‘really worried’ about her family, saying they had ‘creepy eyes’ and adding that she had ‘problems with spirits’ and ‘spirits had been touching her’.
She told her mother: ‘I felt I had to protect him from you’.
In her police interviews, she said her mother, step-father and siblings had ‘big eyes’ and ‘contorted’ faces, and she believed they were possessed by demons. A forensic psychiatrist’s report later found Steele had been suffering from ‘as unrecognised, undiagnosed and untreated mental illness’.
It continued: ‘[Steele] was so deluded that she drowned her son to protect him from demons and send him to Heaven.’
The report said that her culpability for the killing was low.
The prosecutor, Mr Jones, said that as a result of the findings of the psychiatric reports, the Crown
The Prosecution Service had decided to accept Steele’s guilty plea to manslaughter, and not seek a trial on murder.
Mr Jones said Steele denied she was trying to baptise Reid when she drowned him in the bath.
Steele denied murder but admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility.
The court heard former carpet company sales manager Steele had been ‘suffering from a mental disorder for a number of months’.
Dr Tom Wynne told the court he believed Steele suffered psychotic depression at the time of Reid’s death or paranoid schizophrenia with a depressive illness.
Mr Jones said stepdad Eric Prescott described Steele to police as a ‘brilliant mother’, he added: ‘She’s always tending to Reid, always devoted to Reid, always reading with him, counting with him, teaching him colours. He’s so intelligent because of all the things she’s taught him.’
‘We never had to worry about Reid. That’s why we’re in shock.’
In a tribute following his death, the family said: ‘Reid was honestly the most energetic, happy, intelligent, beautiful and loved child we have ever met. He was able to count to 10 in three languages.
‘His favourite things were Bob the Builder, Winnie the Pooh and the Heffalump, the beach, shells and pebbles, diggers, flowers and nature. Reid lit up everyone’s lives. He adored the songs You Are My Sunshine, This Little Light of Mine and Bob the Builder.
‘We miss him with every fibre of our beings. Reid never experienced evil or pain in his little life, he was so adored by all of us. We miss him every single day. He was the most beautiful and precious angel to grace the earth.
‘If anyone of you were able to have met him in his short life, you will understand exactly what we mean.’