Drowned baby’s mother: ‘Divine voice’ told me to submerge ‘son of Messiah’
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Drowned baby’s mother: ‘Divine voice’ told me to submerge ‘son of Messiah’

Court lifts gag order to reveal that 28-year-old woman with history of mental problems is formally suspected of murder

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men gather at Kikar Shabbat in Jerusalem to attend the funeral of the infant who drowned to death in Ashdod,  April 5, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men gather at Kikar Shabbat in Jerusalem to attend the funeral of the infant who drowned to death in Ashdod, April 5, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The mother of a 1-month-old baby who drowned in a hotel jacuzzi earlier this month is suspected of his murder, it was revealed Sunday, after a magistrates court in the coastal city of Ashdod lifted a gag order.

She is suspected of having submerged the infant at least three times, believing that a divine voice was telling her that if she kept him underwater, he would emerge as a grown man, because he was “the Messiah’s son,” the indictment shows.

The mother was initially suspected of criminal wrongdoing, a significantly lesser charge than that of murder, and the father of obstructing justice.

Police at the Miami Hotel, where an infant drowned in a bathtub, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, on April 2, 2018. (Flash90)

But the father, whose lawyer claimed he had nothing to do with the baby’s death, was released from detention Sunday, and police are reportedly reconsidering the case against him.

The woman, who has a history of mental problems, is currently hospitalized in a psychiatric ward on court orders.

The indictment comes despite a district psychiatrist ruling last week that she was not mentally fit to stand trial.

The couple, both aged 28, have a 7-year-old son and — according to people involved in the case quoted by Hebrew media — had recently succeeded in having another child after years of trying.

Hailing from the Beit Shemesh area, near Jerusalem, they were vacationing in an Ashdod hotel during the Passover holiday when the incident took place.

The woman reportedly changed her version of events several times and, according to the Walla news site, police believe she may have murdered the baby before going into the water with him.

On the day of the drowning, paramedics attempted to resuscitate the infant and rushed him to the city’s Assuta Medical Center, but medical staff were unable to save his life.

The couple, ultra-Orthodox Jews, objected to a police request to carry out an autopsy on the baby’s body to help determine the cause of death. Jewish tradition generally opposes autopsies on the grounds that the body is sacred and should not be tampered with after death.

In the end, an autopsy was performed in the presence of a doctor picked by the family, after the High Court accepted the police request.

Handing down the decision, the justices said that although they respected the religious sensitivities of the family, they felt they had no choice but to deny their petition against the autopsy.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men clash with police in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood, April 4, 2018, during a protest against the carrying out of an autopsy on a baby that drowned to death in coastal Ashdod. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

For several days, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, Ashdod, and Beit Shemesh protested the investigation and planned autopsy, temporarily blocking traffic and the light rail system and clashing with police.

The baby’s burial 10 days ago was temporarily disrupted when members of an extreme ultra-Orthodox sect seized the body from an ambulance.

A statement from the Zaka emergency service, which had been transporting the body, said one of its medics was beaten by the mob, which had thrust open the ambulance door, grabbed the body, and placed it in an another car, which then brought the baby to the burial grounds.

Tens of Orthodox women turned out for the baby’s burial, telling their children that the blame for the baby’s death fell on “the infidels.”

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