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Celebrity photographer’s autistic son ‘suffocated with a sponge’

A mother accused of murdering the disabled son of a celebrity photographer by suffocating him had ‘been struggling to meet his care needs’ after help stopped during lockdown.

The Old Bailey heard this morning that the burden of the 24 hour care needed for victim Dylan Freeman, 10, had fallen on the defendant Olga Freeman and her ex-partner Edita Surpickaja.

Mrs Freeman was charged with murder after Dylan, whose father is photographer Dean Freeman, was found dead at the weekend at their home in Acton, west London.

He suffered from genetic disorder Cohen Syndrome and his condition had been especially challenging during the Coronavirus lockdown.

Prosecutor Joel Smith said: ‘Edita Surpickaja had noticed that the defendant had been struggling to met Dylan’s care needs for the last year as he became older and bigger and more difficult to care for.

‘Around six months ago Dylan’s behaviour had become especially challenging.

‘Dylan had attended a special school for five days per week but during the lock-down had not been able to attend special school. The burden of care had fallen on the defendant with assistance from Ms Surpickaja.

‘Ms Surpickaja had only been able to offer that assistance for around 12 hours per week

‘The defendant had sought assistance from the local council, but Ms Surpickaja would tell the police, had received none.’ 

The court also heard the mother is accused of killing him putting a sponge in Dylan’s mouth and laying him down next to his favourite toys in the master bedroom. 

Joel Smith, prosecuting, said: ‘The cause of death was found to be restriction of the airways.

‘Parts of sponge were found within the throat of the deceased.’

Mrs Freeman’s appearance came two days after her photographer ex told how he had been a ‘beautiful, bright, inquisitive and artistic child’ whose loss he could not begin to comprehend.

Mr Freeman is currently in Spain and his representative said when he heard the shocking and heart-breaking news he was ‘beyond devastated’.

They added: ‘He was a loving and caring father and even though divorced for a number of years, he cherished all the quality time spent with his son’.

In a statement, Mr Freeman added: ‘Dylan was a beautiful, bright, inquisitive and artistic child who loved to travel, visit art galleries and swim. We travelled extensively over the years together spending such memorable time in places including Brazil, France and Spain. I can’t begin to comprehend his loss.’

The representative continued: ‘Dean has been touched by the messages of support he’s received from friends and asks that the media respects his and his family’s privacy at this awful time.’

Mrs Freeman was charged after a woman walked into a police station in the early hours of Sunday to speak to officers.

Police then found Dylan dead at the family home in, Acton, west London.

Neighbours said the youngster – who had severe autism – had to use a wheelchair, had a number of disabilities and was unable to speak.

His father Mr Freeman is renowned in the photography world for his candid pictures of stars, including David Beckham and the Spice Girls.

He is the son of Robert Freeman, responsible for some music’s most iconic album covers, including The Beatles’ Rubber Soul masterpiece. 

Mrs Freeman, who is originally from Moscow, is registered as living in the property, which has an estimated value of £544,000.

A neighbour said they had been told she and Mr Freeman had now separated. 

In 2011 he credited his wife and son in a book by singer Michael Buble, showing behind the scenes glimpses of the American multi-million.

He said: ‘Love to my amazing wife Olga and son Dylan. You are my world.’ 

Dylan was named in publicly available court details on Monday morning. 

Rakesh Shukla told MailOnline that he helped care for Dylan last year but had to give up the job as he found it too demanding.

Mr Shukla, 25 who lives in Acton, West London said: ‘‘He had a lot of disabilities, couldn’t speak and was prone to sudden outbursts, when he’d start kicking his arms and legs and throwing things around.’

He added: ‘My work involved taking him out to the park for a couple of hours so that Olga could have some time to herself. I only did it about three or four times, but it was too much for me so had to tell her that I couldn’t continue. I found it very stressful so I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her.

‘I only saw her last week and she looked really drained and tired.’

Another neighbour, who lives opposite the crime scene, said she would often see a little boy leaving the property in a specially adapted van.

Gillian Fisher, 34, said: “I don’t know who the family were but if the little boy is who I think he is, I used to see him being taken to school in his wheelchair in a specially adapted van.”

Neighbour Abby Gorton, who earlier spoke to detectives at length, said lockdown had made things difficult.

She said: ‘It’s a tragedy. She was in a desperate situation and lockdown has made it more desperate.

‘He was a very very severely disabled child and she had no help.

‘He was very autistic, he didn’t speak, he would only scream and flail.

‘I always felt terribly sorry for her and should’ve done more to help her.

‘I barely saw her with any other adults, any other help – and in lockdown nothing.’

Reverend Nick Jones, 61, the rector of Acton, who lives on Cumberland Park, said news of the boy’s death was ‘shattering’.

He said: ‘I’m still shaking a bit, it’s hugely upsetting.’

Another neighbour said he was ‘in shock’ and that police cars and a private ambulance arrived at the scene at around 2.30am on Sunday. 

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