Chris Brooke, Daily Mail (London), May 25, 2011
Lorraine Mbulawa was found not guilty of attempted murder but was charged with the lesser offence of unlawful wounding
A young woman who repeatedly stabbed her mother as she slept has walked free from court after a judge accepted she believed she was acting on the instructions of evil spirits.
Lorraine Mbulawa, 20, donned dark clothes, gloves and a home-made balaclava and attacked her mother with a kitchen knife in Braunstone Firth, Leicester.
The 43-year-old victim saved herself by grabbing the weapon, but suffered serious face and arm injuries.
Mbulawa, who was 18 at the time, was cleared of attempted murder at her trial at Leicester Crown Court earlier this year but convicted of unlawful wounding.
Psychiatrists said she was not mad and the jury agreed that she knew what she was doing.
However, the A-level student, who was born in Zimbabwe, escaped with a 12-month suspended prison sentence and was ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work.
Passing sentence on Monday, Mr Justice Keith said he accepted the defendant had strong beliefs in witchcraft and thought she was possessed by the spirit of her dead grandmother at the time of the attack in May 2009.
He told Leeds Crown Court: ‘She believed spirits can enter the body and make you do things that otherwise you would not have done.’
He praised Mbulawa as ‘unusually confident and assured, also not unintelligent with a degree of charm and poise’.
Family members were in court and her mother Sisbsisiwe gave Mbulawa an emotional hug as she was released from the dock. She will now be able to move back in with her mother in Braunstone Frith, Leicester, after living apart for two years.
Mr Justice Keith told Mbulawa: ‘I hope that you and your mother can come to terms with what has happened. I wish you all the best for the future.’
Mr Justice Keith allowed Lorraine Mbulawa to walk free from court
The court heard a psychiatrist who assessed Mbulawa said she was still a risk because she believed the spirits could possess her again and she has no control over them.
Describing the attack, Mrs Mbulawa, a nurse, told the jury: ‘I saw this figure in my room and a shiny object was in the air. I was petrified. I thought it was an intruder.’
She turned the light on, pulled off the mask and discovered the attacker was her daughter, who screamed: ‘Mummy, people are after us. They want to kill us.’
Mrs Mbulawa said her husband collapsed and died suddenly in 2000 and she moved to the UK with her daughter two years later.
In her evidence Mbulawa told the court: ‘My grandmother said my mother was responsible for the death of my father and I had to do the honourable thing to my father by killing my mother.’
A policewoman who arrived at the house said Mbulawa was sitting on the stairs in a trance-like state, crying, shaking and hyper-ventilating, while her mother, who was bleeding heavily, was trying to comfort her.
PC Patricia Lutz said Mbulawa was co-operative and appeared to calm down on the journey to the police station and then seemed ‘like a different person’.
After the case Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, said the case was an example of a trend in soft sentencing. He said: ‘It is cases like this that make people lose faith in the criminal justice system and in politicians as well.’