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Monday, 12 February, 2001, 16:20 GMT
Autistic boy killed baby brother
bristol crown court
Part of the court building was cordoned off
A boy killed his baby brother by cutting off his left hand and stabbing him 17 times was suffering from autism, a court has heard.

The 13-year-old, who denied murder, admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility at Bristol Crown Court.

Roderick Denyer QC, prosecuting, accepted the boy's plea and said a murder trial would not be in the public interest.

The case was adjourned for psychiatric reports.

Kitchen knife

After the attack the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had walked to a nearby police station, pulled out a five-inch kitchen knife and told officers: "I've killed my brother," the court heard.

Asked why, he had just said: "I want to be with my mum".

Officers found the six-month-old baby in his cot at the boy's home in the Withywood area of Bristol.

One of the wounds, which severed the baby's spinal cord "would have required a sizeable degree of force", Mr Denyer told the court.

Police arrived

The mother, 30, told the police she put the baby in his cot at about 1pm, then argued with the boy and told him to go upstairs to feed the baby.

He went upstairs and the baby started crying almost immediately.

Five minutes later the boy came downstairs and asked his mother to wash his coat.

"She noticed that the clothes he had been wearing were now in the wash basket and were subsequently put in the washing machine," Mr Denyer told the court.

'Hellish' circumstances

"The first she knew about the death was when the police arrived at the house."

Lady Helena Kennedy QC, defending, said the boy, who is being held in secure local authority accommodation, suffered from Asperger syndrome, a mild form of autism, and had been brought up in "hellish" circumstances.

The hearing took place in conditions introduced by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, after the European Court of Human Rights' criticism of the trial of the two boys convicted of murdering James Bulger.

Public excluded

Part of the court building was cordoned off and the public excluded from the courtroom to protect the accused's identity.

Only four media representatives were allowed in and were seated so as to be out of the boy's sight.

He sat with social workers and solicitors in the main court area - not in the dock.

The judge, who also sat in the well of the court, and barristers dispensed with their usual formal dress and terminology.

No uniformed police officers were allowed in court.

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See also:

18 Apr 00 | Health
Why autism can't find a face
04 May 99 | Health
Autistic children 'let down'
12 Feb 01 | A-B
Asperger's syndrome
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