Mother whose arrest fired rage ‘is innocent’

Strictly Orthodox demonstrators in Jerusalem protest against the arrest of a Charedi              woman accused of starving her son. Eighteen policemen were injured

Strictly Orthodox demonstrators in Jerusalem protest against the arrest of a Charedi woman accused of starving her son. Eighteen policemen were injured

The grandmother of a three-year-old boy allegedly starved by his mother in Jerusalem until he weighed just 14 lb has said she is standing by her daughter-in-law, whose arrest has sparked rioting by some of the city’s strictly Orthodox factions.

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, is a member of the strictly Orthodox community in Stamford Hill, north London.

“I’m giving my daughter-in-law my full support for everything. She’s a wonderful woman. She’s never had a personal problem,” the 50-year-old said.

She hopes her son and his family will now move to Britain to start a new life.

Her son, a scribe, moved to Israel 10 years ago to settle with his Israeli wife. They are both in their 30s and the woman is pregnant with their sixth child.

She was arrested last week on suspicion of neglect. It is thought she suffers from Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, which leads a person to deliberately injure another in order to gain attention. Hospital cameras filmed her removing the boy’s feeding tube.

The grandmother, who was visiting the family when the arrest took place, claimed the boy has been suffering from cancer for seven months.

“He still needs a lot of building up, he’s very weak. It’s not because she let him starve, it’s because he’s not well. If he did not have cancer why was he in the cancer ward for seven months?

“They claimed she pulled out his hair, but why would a mother do that? The doctors saw my daughter-in-law was very nosey and on top of them the whole time. They thought they would get into trouble so they turned it round on her. They should be questioned.

“I heard rumours that people are saying two of her other children were abused, but it’s a lie, it’s rubbish.”

The Hadassah Medical Organisation said suggestions the boy was suffering from cancer were “completely baseless” and “absolutely not true”.

The grandmother also praised rioters who began violent protests in Jerusalem following the mother’s arrest, injuring 18 police officers. “The rioters did well because otherwise the authorities would still have kept her in custody. Everyone knows how devoted she is [to her family]. The neighbours stuck up for her.” The results of a psychiatric evaluation of the mother were not available as of press time.

Hospital director Dr Yair Birenbaum received death threats after the woman’s arrest, and posters were put up comparing the hospital with Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.

The woman is believed to belong to the Toldot Aharon Charedi faction, which is part of the Edah Charedit, a coalition of strictly Orthodox groups which is leading the protests.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has called for rioters who vandalised property to be served civil lawsuits.

Last updated: 5:23pm, July 23 2009