Mum Drowned 7-year-old Daughter After Losing Mind To Schizophrenia

A deranged mother became so convinced paedophiles were targeting her seven year-old daughter that she drowned the schoolgirl to protect her. Civil servant Heather Vinkenbrink, aged 45, developed an illness which led her to think her family was being persecuted. She told her 17-year-old son not to go out and took her daughter Lily Burrows to work with her at a Jobcentre where she hid her under a desk.

When fellow staff realised the girl was there a supervisor offered to take Vinkenbrink and the little girl to a friend’s house.

They were dropped off in the Devon countryside but instead of taking Lily to safety, Vinkenbrink took her into the nearby River Otter and drowned her.

Vinkenbrink’s son Christian Murphy, now aged 19, saw his mother becoming increasingly unstable in the weeks before the killing but had no idea she planned to harm her own child.

After killing Lily she returned home and told him: “I have done something very stupid, I have drowned Lily.”

Vinkenbrink, of Elizabeth Avenue, Exeter, denies murdering Lily at Tipton St John, near Sidmouth, East Devon in November 2004, by reason of insanity.

A jury at Exeter Crown Court has been told that psychiatrists from both sides agree she is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

The prosecution and defence also agree that she should be found not guilty by reason of insanity but the final decision has to be made by the jury.

She will then be sent to a secure mental hospital under the Mental Health Act and will not be released unless doctors advise the Home Secretary she is recovered and safe.

Mr Martin Meeke, QC, prosecuting, said: “Vinkenbrink went to the police and told them she had drowned Lily. She said she would be safe from the paedophile ring.

“The Crown have reached the clear conclusion that, when she killed Lily, Vinkenbrink was indeed insane.”

He then read all the evidence of the killing to the jury in statements from witnesses.

Miss Vinkenbrink’s son Christian Murphy, now aged 19, said his mother became unstable in the weeks before the killing and started talking gibberish.

He said she became convinced Lily had been molested by paedophiles and her mental state worsened.

He said: “She would forbid us to go out and said there were people out to get her and kept mentioning paedophiles.

“She said she could hear children screaming in the distance although I could not hear a thing.

“On the day Lily died she told me if I did not go back into town with her I would be killed by paedophiles.

“Lily did not want to go with Mum and I did not think Mum would be able to look after her but I could not her taking Lily.

“I next saw Mum at about 6.30 pm and she said:’I have done something very stupid, I have drowned Lily.'”

Jobcentre team leader Kim Trowbridge said Vinkenbrink came into work with Lily on the afternoon of the drowning even though she was not on duty.

She said: “The little girl was underneath the desk. She looked petrified. I suggested to Heather she should go and see a doctor.” Mrs Trowbridge said she agreed to give the mother and child a lift to a country lane near Sidmouth but on the way Vinkenbrink continued to act strangely.

She said: “She thought we were being followed and did not want Lily to be seen and so she sat in the passenger footwell behind my seat.”

She said she thought Vinkenbrink was taking Lily to a friend’s house in the country and she only realised the truth after the little girl’s body was found.

She said: “I thought it must be Lily and when I realised that it was I was deeply upset.”