The judge said he "unhesitatingly" concluded that Bennett-Eko was dangerous.The death of a beautiful baby boy at the hands of his own father was a nightmarish but all too real tragedy that shook a small town to its core.

Zakari William Bennett-Eko was just 11-months-old when his dad thew him into the River Irwell in Radcliffe, killing him, on September 11, 2019.

The 22-year-old then wandered into a nearby pub and told those around him what he had done.

When police arrested him, he calmly informed them of his name and was taken away by officers without a struggle.

The shocking truth of what had happened soon emerged - Zak Bennett-Eko had thrown his little boy over a five-foot-high fence into the fast-flowing river.

No attempt was made to hide what he had done.

A bystander bravely went into the water in a bid to rescue Zakari, but the child was gone.

He was found an hour later near a bridge on Blackburn Street.

The child was retrieved from the water and taken to hospital, where he tragically later died.

It was in these unimaginable circumstances that Zakari's mum, Emma Blood, lost her first baby.

Now justice has finally been done.

His father Bennett-Eko, now 23, faces years in a secure psychiatric unit after being unanimously found guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

The court heard he may never be released.

Zak Bennett-Eko

Judge Mr Justice Fraser The Lowry Nightingale court: "The first Emma knew of any of this was when the police called at her house and explained to her what had happened.

"By 7.30pm that evening, she found herself identifying the body of her small son at the hospital. He had died through a combination of drowning and hypothermia."

Emma was eight months pregnant with the then-couple's second child.

"Zakari was dearly loved," said Emma in a heartbreaking statement read in court.

"He was my first baby. He was bright, bubbly, and very mischievous. He soon figured out he could do cheeky things to get a giggle out of me.

"His little laugh was infections. I was so proud watching his personality develop. I would tell him that his mummy loved him every day. I can't quite come to terms with the fact I can no longer do that in person.

"I will never understand why, nor will I get over this.

"I can only hope that over time, the man responsible will understand the unimaginable pain he has caused."

Zakari William Bennett-Eko

The killing rocked the tight-knit town of Radcliffe.

Those who witnessed the tragedy began sharing their horror - and their devastation for the family involved.

The community banded together, leaving hundreds of floral tributes and helping pay for Zakari's funeral.

In the hours following his death, a JustGiving page was set up with the aim of raising £1,000.

The target was reached within a matter of hours. The the page went on to raise £5,000.

The crowdfunding page was started by Helen Coverdale, from Unsworth, Bury, just hours after the tragedy and was shared thousands of times on social media.

Explaining why she set it up, Ms Coverdale said: "It was horrifying.

"I was sitting there and I just wanted to get hold of the baby and cuddle him and make him better."

Zakari with mum Emma Blood

In a statement sent to the Manchester Evening News at the time, Zakari's grandfather Andy Blood said : "We would like to thank all the people from Radcliffe and the rest of the local area and country, who were so wonderful and showing so much compassion."

The revelations that followed during the week-long trial were harrowing.

Medics told of Bennett-Eko's long history of paranoid schizophrenia, which spiked to dangerous new levels in the weeks before the killing as he stopped taking medication - something 'common' for schizophrenics.

Jurors were told Bennett-Eko and Ms Blood had tried to get help at A&E for his condition multiple times, but failed.

Instead, Ms Blood faced daily ordeals as Bennett-Eko lost his grip on reality - saying that his mother was Beyonce and that 'he would have to go out and kill people'.

Having cared for Zakari for 11 months as a 'loving father', Ms Blood was concerned her partner would hurt himself, but 'never imagined' he would harm their child.

She said he needed to start looking after himself as she would not be able to care for two babies and him, jurors were told.

The defence team told of terrifying hallucinations immediately before the fatal act, which led Bennett-Eko to believe his son was the devil and that people were telling him to drown the child.

Flowers and tributes for baby Zakari

The prosecution hit back with evidence that Bennett-Eko hesitated before he threw his little boy and said: "What the f*** am I doing? This is my son."

Prosecutors alleged the hesitation proved Bennett-Eko was conscious of what he was doing - and that it was wrong.

Jurors were painted a frightening picture of what was going on in this man's head - and faced with haunting footage of the scenes that followed the horrific incident.

The court was shown police body cam footage of Bennett-Eko sitting at a table in the Lock Keeper pub on the banks of the River Irwell just after throwing his child in the water, immediately before he was arrested.

"Has something gone into the water today?," a police officer asks the seated Bennett-Eko, dressed in a gilet.

"Yeah," he replies.

The bridge above the River Irwell was lined with tributes

"Is it a baby?," asks the officer.

"Yeah," says Bennett-Eko.

"What's the baby's name?," the officer asks.

"Zakari," Bennett-Eko responds.

Some hours later, body cam footage was captured of Bennett-Eko sat in a cell the moment he was told Zakari was dead.

A policeman asks if Bennett-Eko is okay. The dad gives two thumbs up, uttering 'yeah'.

Psychiatrists giving evidence at the trial disagreed over what the eerily relaxed presentation meant.

Radcliffe residents were left rocked by the tragedy

One doctor, Dr Inti Qurashi, said Bennett-Eko was still capable of reasonable thought, and that his slight hesitation before throwing his baby meant he was aware of what was about to happen.

Two other doctors - Dr John Crosby and Dr Melanie Higgins - said Bennett-Eko's attitude was 'deceiving' - that he appeared 'rational', but inside, was in a severely disturbed mental state, causing him to 'see, hear and smell' things.

While Bennett-Eko asked himself what he was doing, the hallucinations were so fluid that his perception of his baby was switching back and forth from the devil to the real Zakari, the court heard.

The pair of clinicians said Bennett-Eko was so psychotic at the time he threw the little one, he would have been legally considered insane.

Dr Qurashi said he did not believe Bennett-Eko passed that 'high' threshold.

Bennett-Eko's history of mental ill-health - and his lack of treatment - became an increasingly shocking feature of the trial.

Doctors described how he had been in an adolescent psychiatric unit for over a year as a 15-year-old - something that was deemed 'rare', according to Dr Higgins.

Handwritten tributes and poems were left near the water where baby Zakari was found

Bennett-Eko was given a year of organised therapy with community mental health services until 2018.

Following that, Bennett-Eko - a man 'who would not have had the capacity to explain his condition' - was released, without any plan, into the care of his GP.

The judge said Bennett-Eko had 'slipped through the net', having been 'failed' on multiple occasions by health services.

Bennett-Eko is now at Ashworth secure psychiatric hospital, where he has been for the last 14 months.

Doctors claim he is 'one of the most ill' at Ashworth - one of three hospitals which house the 'most dangerous' offenders with mental illnesses.

The dad was not in court for the trial, deemed too ill to attend.

He said: "You have a mental illness, namely paranoid schizophrenia. You have had this since a young age – you were first diagnosed at about 12 years of age. At the time of these events, you were 22.

"When you were 15, you were sectioned under the Mental Health Act and admitted to a secure adolescent mental health institution called the Gardiner Unit.

Zakari William Bennett-Eko and his mother Emma Blood

"Upon discharge from there in 2016, you were made subject to a community treatment order, with certain conditions. That order was made for a 12 month period, and when it came to an end in February 2017, you were discharged from the community mental health team and put under the care of your GP.

"Dr Crosby, your treating clinician at Ashworth, describes that transfer from the community mental health team as a mistake. It clearly was.

"However, it is not the only failure of the system in your case. You seem to have slipped through the net in terms of care for your mental illness, which with hindsight was far more serious than was realised at the time.

"You were on two types of medication, and had regular appointments with your GP. However, in the months leading up to this offence, you stopped picking up your prescriptions, and efforts made by your GP to contact you failed.

Flowers and tributes to baby Zakari were left on the bridge over the River Irwell in Radcliffe

"You also failed to take your medication regularly in any event. You had also used cannabis on a regular basis and this exacerbated your mental illness, although I accept that you stopped using this about three weeks before the offence.

"From August 2019 onward you began to relapse in terms of your mental illness. There is a picture of attempts both by you, and Emma, during this period to seek professional help for your obviously deteriorating mental state.

"You attended A&E at the North Manchester General Hospital no fewer than four times in the couple of weeks leading up to the offence, and six times in all. You were extremely ill, and becoming more ill.

"However, your rapidly deteriorating mental state went unnoticed on each occasion you presented at A&E.

"You expressly asked to be sectioned. The notes of one of those visits positively states 'no emergency, no urgency' and you were again simply referred back to your GP. One on occasion you left the hospital before you could be seen and advised.

The Nightingale court at The Lowry

"It will be no consolation to Emma that she did her best, whilst eight months pregnant and also looking after Zakari, to look after you as well, and to try and obtain the help for you that you needed."

It his thought Bennett-Eko's calm presentation, along with a learning disability that made it difficult to communicate his feelings, were the reasons A&E doctors did not pick up on the serious nature of his illness.

The judge added: "The regular trips you made to A&E show that you made genuine and sustained attempts to seek professional help. You were trying, as best you could in this respect, and you expressly asked to be sectioned.

"Your difficulties in communicating would have made it a lot more difficult for doctors in a busy A&E department to recognise your mental state, and sadly, on each occasion you presented at the hospital the help you needed was not available."

The judge said he 'unhesitatingly' concluded Bennett-Eko was dangerous.

Tributes left on the bridge

Ultimately, jurors had to decide whether Bennett-Eko understood what he was doing - or that recognised that what he was doing was wrong - at when he threw his child into the river.

It took them three hours to reach their verdict.

Bennett-Eko was handed a hospital order Under section 37 of the Mental Health Act, confining him to a secure psychiatric unit until such a time that the Home Secretary - and a board of psychiatrists - see fit to lessen restrictions.

According to the doctors who contributed throughout the trial, that may never happen.

"In your case, and this is accepted by your treating clinicians, there is the prospect that you may never be well enough to be released," the judge told him.

The guilty verdict was met with a loud 'yes' from the public gallery - the sound of long-awaited relief from a family that has been through hell.

In a poignant final few words to her son, Ms Blood said: "My Zakari, my baby boy, my beautiful son. He was only on this earth for 11 months, but he was loved a lifetime's worth."