Page last updated at 20:16 GMT, Friday, 29 January 2010

'No systems failures' caused mother to kill her son

Emma and Ryan Manser
Emma Manser had a history of mental illness

There was no systems failure which caused the death of a four-year-old boy who was killed by his mentally ill mother, a Devon corner has ruled.

Emma Manser, 24, from Exeter, Devon, smothered Ryan in April 2007 five days after being released from hospital.

She thought she was the messiah and hanged herself in a psychiatric unit in 2008, the inquest in Honiton heard.

In a narrative verdict, coroner Darren Salter said lessons could be learned and procedures should be reviewed.

After killing her son at her mother's home in Whipton, Exeter, Emma Manser repeatedly stabbed her mother, Wendy Richards.

We are surprised that Emma's more frightening thoughts were not considered by the authorities to suggest a risk
Robert Manser

Ms Richards told the inquest her daughter thought she was the messiah and had a history of mental illness.

She said that her daughter had repeatedly been admitted to hospital and had been released too soon.

The inquest also heard that Ms Manser had had fantasies about sacrificing Ryan nearly two years before his death.

Ms Manser had unsupervised access to Ryan, with visits managed by Ms Richards.

David Simpkins from Devon Social Services said Ms Richards was capable of managing this arrangement.

Asked if the same would be allowed again in a similar future case, Mr Simpkins replied: "We would give it much closer consideration and scrutiny, but no-one could have predicted the tragic outcome."

Ms Manser was eventually taken to The Dene mental health unit, in West Sussex, for psychiatric assessment. She was found hanged there on 17 July 2008.

Exeter and Greater Devon deputy coroner Mr Salter ruled that the actions of doctors and social workers had not led to Ryan's death but said procedures should be reviewed.

'Frightening thoughts'

He recommended that social services and mental health staff reviewed the ways they assessed risks in any similar cases.

In a statement after the inquest, Ryan's grandfather, Robert Manser, questioned how the authorities handled the case.

He said: "It appeared to us that too much responsibility was left to Emma and her family to make sure local authority plans for Ryan's safety and care were carried, especially in the difficult week after her discharge from hospital.

"We are surprised that Emma's more frightening thoughts were not considered by the authorities to suggest a risk to Ryan, especially as she had been so ill in the weeks before."

The Devon Safeguarding Children's Board said it had undertaken a comprehensive review of the procedures affected by the case.

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