“Is that 911? I just threw my son off a bridge.”
These were the words of Jillian Meredith McCabe when she spoke to an emergency telephone operator on Monday evening at 6.30pm. She was still on the phone to police when they arrived to find her standing on the edge of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Oregon, in the US.
It was a cold night, and the water was freezing. Officers said they would not expect a human of any size to survive in the river for more than 20 minutes, never mind a slight six-year-old boy.
And hours later, a tiny body was pulled from the water.
London McCabe was dead. He may have been dead when he went over the edge of the bridge, he may have been killed by the fall, he may have drowned in the icy water. He is gone. And his mother has been charged with aggravated murder, murder and first-degree manslaughter.
Are you enraged?
I was. In a week when I have read about an incest “cult” in NSW, a child sex abuse ring exposed by the disappearance of an American teen, the neglect of an Australian toddler to the point of malnutrion, and always, Luke Batty, whose father murdered him in plain sight, it seems the world is unbearably cruel to children. I have had my fill of it. I want to look away.
Then I read on, and this woman’s despair and isolation began to shift into focus. She is a mother and a wife, and she was the exhausted and increasingly desperate primary carer for two severely affected human beings.
London McCabe had what is being reported as “severe” autism. He required constant care. This has absolutely no bearing or affect on the value of his life – of course it does not – it is a detail reported to give us a glimpse at a motive for a mother to do something so horrific to her own flesh and blood.
Because when a parent kills a child we reach around for reasons. For answers, for any information that we can place between us and them to distance ourselves from the horror.
Jillian McCabe had a challenging son who required a great deal of care. And she also had a sick husband.
She had been married to Matt McCabe for years, and he had been the provider for the family while she cared for London. And then Matt developed MS.
She wrote on her blog:
‘My husband went from being able to walk/drive/work/make money/talk/throw our son in the air to being diagnosed with MS, having a mass in the brain stem, he is now walking with a walker, not being able to drive/work/make money, he now slurs his speech…
‘Matt went from the sole bread winner and provider to not in a matter of 2 weeks,” Jillian wrote about him on a blog in 2012 she had posted to explain why she and her family had gone from self-sufficient to asking for crowd-sourced cash to pay for medical bills.
‘Matt’s laying in a hospital bed… complaining we don’t have insurance, we don’t have the money for hospital bills, he has a shopping cart website to work on…’
Jillian closed that post with: ‘I NEED YOUR HELP.’
She did need help. Financial, or practical, or mental? Considering the terrible outcome of this story, probably a combination of all three.