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Yeeda Topham killed her baby son but walks free

Australian Associated Press AAP, By Warwick Stanley, December 05, 2008

A WOMAN who killed her infant son by jumping with him from the eighth floor of a city apartment block has walked free after being convicted of manslaughter.

Yeeda Topham, 40, of Roleystone near Perth, had pleaded guilty in the West Australian Supreme Court to a charge of unlawfully killing 21-month-old James Topham on November 5 last year.

Topham, a small, frail woman who suffered multiple injuries and was permanently impaired in the fall, supported herself on crutches and trembled in the dock on Friday as the court heard she had twice tried to take the lives of herself and her son.

She wiped away tears as the court was told she had written poems and a suicide note while suffering from severe depression and what she believed was the loss of her "bond" with her son.

Topham, who has been in custody since James' death, was sentenced to a term "equal to the time spent in custody".

She walked from the court with the help of relatives soon after being freed by Justice John McKechnie.

Justice McKechnie told the court there was no punishment he could impose in such a "sad case, whichever way it's looked at".

"As has been said by wiser judges than me, where justice ends mercy begins," he said.

He said the taking of life could not be condoned, particularly in a case where someone so young had been taken away.

Justice McKechnie said the boy's paternal grandmother had been aware of her daughter-in-law's fragile state and said in a letter: "I cannot understand why he was left in her care."

She did not understand Topham's mental illness but said "taking James has ruined so many lives".

"You have taken away a grandson and caused immense grief," Justice McKechnie told Topham.

"Human frailty overcame all your normal inhibitions."

The court was told Topham was a former teacher whose marriage was deteriorating when she first tried to take her life in 2006.

She failed in an attempt to gas herself and James by diverting a hose from the tailpipe of her car.

Justice McKechnie said Topham had been "very determined" to take her own life and that the falling out with her husband may have played a part in her suicide bids.

The fact she had gone to the place where they had lived together to jump from the balcony indicated "an element of vengeance", he said.

Director of Public Prosecutions David Dempster did not oppose the defence's request for a suspended sentence.

Mr Dempster said Topham should be freed provided she continued to receive psychiatric treatment.