Killer mother told police she ‘put girl to sleep’

Baby Chloe who was smothered by her mother Erin Sutherland. Picture: Contributed
Baby Chloe who was smothered by her mother Erin Sutherland. Picture: Contributed
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A MOTHER suffering from postnatal depression killed her baby before calling emergency services and telling them: “I’ve put my daughter to sleep.”

Erin Sutherland smothered her nine-month-old daughter, Chloe, at the family home after a letter arrived from the baby’s father detailing his proposals for arranging access to the child.

This is clearly an enormously distressing case

Judge Lady Wise

A court heard Sutherland, 36, had previously received treatment following the birth of an older daughter when she was diagnosed with postnatal depression (PND) in 2006. Her symptoms worsened when the child was eight months old and led to her becoming an inpatient.

This earlier episode of PND had involved Sutherland believing it would be better for her children if she died and took them with her.

But when her family doctor contacted a mental health team for her to see a community psychiatric nurse (CPN) following a consultation in December last year, support could not be offered. Advocate depute Iain McSporran said: “That team and the CPN were unable to offer support now that the baby was older than six months.”

The prosecutor said he understood, after consulting with psychiatrist John Crichton, that “generally speaking” six months is a point beyond which PND will no longer be considered a factor.

He said: “In this regard, he ­attaches importance to the fact that in her previous experience of PND, the severe recurrence had been at the eight-month stage.”

Mr McSporran told the High Court in Edinburgh: “I do not think that I misrepresent Dr Crichton when I say that he believes that a different system, and I emphasise system rather than the actions of any individual, might well have seen a different outcome.”

He said that Crown counsel intended to look at issues in more detail to see if matters should be aired at a fatal accident inquiry into the death of Chloe Sutherland.

Sutherland was originally arrested for the murder of her daughter, but yesterday pled guilty to the lesser offence of culpable homicide.

She admitted assaulting and killing Chloe, who was born on 8 April last year, at their home in Parkhead View, Edinburgh, on 3 February this year, and covering her mouth and nose with the baby sustaining injuries from which she died.

The Crown accepted her plea on the basis that at the time she was suffering a mental disorder, namely postnatal depression.

The judge, Lady Wise, said: “This is clearly an enormously distressing case, the events of which have caused considerable trauma for all concerned.”

Sentence was deferred on Sutherland, who is detained at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, for reports, and she will be held under a treatment order ahead of sentencing in August.