Monday, 14 April 2014

'My mother cut my throat and then prepared to roast me in the oven'

'My Mum cut my throat when I was two in a Bible sacrifice and prepared to roast me in the family oven' - Susannah Birch, 27, speaks about the attack which changed her life her life and her brave fight back

Susannah Birch remembers the day her mother prepared her for a ritual Old Testament sacrifice, cutting her throat with a kitchen knife and preparing to roast her in the oven of the family home in the small Queensland town of Dalby.

It was the Australia weekend in January 1989, when Birch was two years old and the only child of parents John and Linda Andrew who were Seventh Day Adventists.
In a seemingly ordinary domestic scene, the family house was undergoing a bathroom renovation, John Andrew had been watching a cricket test on television and had gone to work.
He knew that Linda had lately been praying more, but he was utterly unaware his wife was slipping into her first psychotic episode.
Linda had apparently been reading the Old Testament book of Genesis, and in particular the verses in which Abraham is instructed to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
'I can remember her boiling the knives,' Susannah, now 27, said of the fateful day 25 years ago.
Her mother had dressed the toddler in clean pyjamas, 'anointed' her in oil as per the Bible passage, and laid her out on a sheepksin rug on a tea chest in the kitchen.
'I remember the knife coming down towards my face and I remember putting my hands up to stop it,' Susannah told ABC Radio National.
Linda cut right through her daughter's trachea and vocal chords. As per the Bible story in which Abraham prepared to make his son Isaac a 'burnt offering' on a wooden altar, Linda was preparing to put her daughter into the oven.
'She told me that she’d held Susannah’s head till Susannah turned blue, which was about 40 minutes,' John Andrew said.
The voices had told her that it was an impure sacrifice and to put her into the oven straight away. '[But] there must have been part of the sanity still there because she argued with those thoughts and said "No. She’s not dead yet – I can’t put her in the oven until she’s dead",' Mr Andrew said.
'She understands that she came out of that psychotic episode and realised – but wasn’t really sure – that she’d done something wrong. So she rang the Dalby police station and said, "I think I’ve done something wrong – I’ve just cut my daughter’s throat",' he said.
'I ... remember playing on the ambulance bed outside our house,' Susannah said.
'It was a very sunny day and I just have this vague memory of looking down at myself.'
Mr Andrew rushed home to find his wife being carted off by police and his daughter to hospital in an ambulance to Dalby Hospital where, luckily, a skilled medical team had been summoned.
The police said 'your wife just slit your daughter's throat. [They] asked about my religion and the Lindy Chamberlain case.'
Police later 'hushed up' the attack, fearful of attracting the storm of negative publicity which had accompanied the 1980 case in the Australian outback, when a dingo took the infant daughter of Seventh Day Adventist couple Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, and Lindy was jailed (and later exonerated) for 'sacrificing' her baby Azaria.
Susannah's oesophagus was repaired and she was given a tracheostomy, in which an exterior tube is inserted to allow her to breathe. Despite the excellent medical care which saved her life, Susannah was not expected to talk again.
John Andrew still weeps as he recalls the moment he got to see his daughter, who had been flown south to Brisbane for treatment.


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