A DAD was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia when he threw his 11-month-old son into the River Irwell, a jury has heard.

It was an hour before paramedics reached the child on September 11 and by that time his heart had stopped and he had drowned.

In the only murder trial taking place in the country at a temporary Nightingale court, Zakari Bennett-Eko’s father, 23-year-old Zak Bennett-Eko appeared by video link and entered a “not guilty” plea to murder this morning.

But Bennett-Eko, who is currently being treated at the secure Ashworth Hospital in Merseyside, was not present as a jury of seven women and five men were sworn in to try the case in the afternoon.

Mr Justice Fraser, who is presiding over the trial, told the jury that Bennett-Eko, of no fixed address, is too unwell to attend the trial, which is due to last up to seven days.

Rob Hall, prosecuting, stressed to the jury that the murder charge acts as a criminal “gateway”. with the defence arguing that Bennett-Eko is not guilty of the crime by reason of insanity.

Both prosecution and defence agree that Bennett-Eko killed his son and and at the time was suffering from a mental disorder but medical experts disagree over whether, at the time, he understood that his actions were wrong.

The jury will have to decide whether he was insane or he is guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

“The prosecution do not seek a verdict of murder,” said Mr Hall.

Outlining the case to the jury Mr Hall told them how the facts of the case are not in dispute.

At 4.20pm on Wednesday September 11, in Radcliffe, Bennett-Eko, who was aged 22 at the time, threw his baby son into the River Irwell.

Mr Hall said: "The act was observed by members of the public who quickly raised the alarm, however due to the inaccessibility of the river and strength of the current it was about an hour before the emergency services were able to rescue Zakari, by which time his heart had stopped and he was very cold.”

Zakeri was taken to the Royal Bolton Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 6.55pm

The trial is being held in a theatre at the Lowry in Salford, one of several temporary courts set up to deal with a backlog of cases brought about by the coronavirus restrictions.

But Mr Justice Fraser warned the jury that, although they are in a location normally used for entertainment, their task is still a serious one.

He said: “It is a bit unusual to be sitting in a theatre and looking at a judge who is sitting on what would be a stage.

“This building is, for all intents and purposes, for this trial, a crown court.

“It is as serious business as conducted in any crown court and the fact it is a theatre is not going to change the trial process at all."

“It is quite unusual to have a murder trial in what is described as a Nightingale court - you may be the only jury that does a murder trial in a Nightingale court,” he told them.

The trial continues.