(Gloucestershire Police/PA)

21-Year-Old Son’s Unthinkable Act During Mental Health Crisis Ends Devoted Mother’s Life

A young man, during a severe mental health episode, tragically took the life of his mother, believing it would redeem her soul, Bristol Crown Court was told.

21-year-old Zak O’Neill, who was 19 at the time, attacked his mother, 47-year-old Michelle O’Neill, at their home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, last year. The court was informed that the mother and son shared a close bond, and there were no signs of animosity between them.

Zak’s mental health had been declining in the months leading up to the incident. He had proactively sought help, alerting the police and a mental health crisis team about his fears of being “dangerous.” After the tragic event, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia by a psychiatrist, revealing his belief that by taking both their lives, he could save their souls.

Michelle O’Neill faced 92 injuries from the attack. The incident’s gruesome nature was emphasized by Judge William Hart, highlighting the mother’s pain and mental anguish. Two expert psychologists concurred that Zak was experiencing psychosis, with no other discernible motives for his actions, reported Independent.

Upon sentencing, the judge stressed the young man’s awareness of his deteriorating mental state, his attempts to seek help, and the lingering weight of remorse he would bear. Zak, who had no prior convictions, was given a hospital order, admitting to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

The O’Neill family released a statement expressing their shock and grief, remembering Michelle as a “much-loved mother, daughter, and sister.” Detective Inspector Adam Stacey described the situation as “heartbreaking,” acknowledging that Zak’s actions were born out of distorted belief, not malice. He will now be placed in a secure psychiatric facility for continued support.

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