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Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, all set within and beyond the West End.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-FIVE:
Today’s episode is about Olga Freeman, a devoted mother to her ten-year-old physically and mentally disabled son – Dylan. She had everything in place to ensure he had the best care possible. But when the Covid Pandemic hit, Olga & Dylan’s lives were thrown into chaos.
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations, to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The location of Olga home is located with lilac cross, just above the words ACTON. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, access them by clicking here.
Here's a video to go with this week's episode, showing you Olga's former home in Cumberland Park, Acton, W3, where Dylan Freeman was murdered. These videos are links to YouTube so they won't eat up your data.
SOURCES: As this case is very new, and none of the court records are available, it was based on news sources, so the veracity of the content cannot be fully verified.
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE:
SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within and beyond the West End.
Today’s episode is about Olga Freeman, a loving mother...
(Podcast grinds to a halt / white noise / distortion).
Imagine if everything stopped. Without reason or warning, everything you ever knew or depended on suddenly ceased in the blink of an eye. None of it was your fault, but you were left to fend for yourself.
When the Covid pandemic hit, for billions of people the whole world stopped dead. The simple things we all took for granted became a massive concern; like our jobs, our health, our wealth and our loved ones, followed by mass panics over some of life’s basics like water, pasta, rice and toilet paper.
Lockdown was a difficult time for everyone - as being prisoners in our own homes - without a routine to keep us sane, boredom created tensions, and (at times) living with those we love became an ordeal.
These were desperate times – a crisis for our age - which pushed our stress levels to breaking point, our sanity to its limits, our tolerance to the edge, and many of us lost loved ones...
...but as the bulk of the population sat on their fat arses, staring at screens and grumbling about the loss of seemingly insignificant little luxuries; like trips to the flicks, nights in the pub, holidays in Greece, footie matches, concerts, picnics and what they would do once they had completed Netflix? While some lamented their so-called hardships and woes living a mildly inconvenienced life in lockdown...
...others were really struggling, being trapped in a waking nightmare.
For those with physical disabilities and mental health issues, as well as those who selflessly provide the care they so desperately need, even little changes to their routines can have a devastating effect.
Simple changes to when they eat, sleep or play; what they do or where they go can quickly spiral into a traumatic event. But what if – one day, without any warning – everything collapsed, their routine upended, and they were forced to stay indoors, every day, with no end in sight? With every vital piece of specialist care or support services they had always relied-on taken away in the blink of an eye, and no matter how loud they shouted or how hard they cried, no-one could hear them scream.
Olga Freeman was a single-mother, living alone, with her severely disabled son – Dylan. Every day was a struggle and every hour was difficult, but she coped as best she could, thanks to her dedication as a loving mother and the routines and services she had put in place to give Dylan the best possible life.
But when the pandemic struck...
... and everything stopped...
...Olga Freeman was left alone.
(Podcast sound comes back in).
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 145: A Desperate Lockdown for Olga Freeman. (Let the theme tune play long, street sounds)
A little over one year ago, this was Olga’s home that she shared with her ten-year-old son - Dylan. It is a small two-bedroomed flat on the ground-floor of 18 Cumberland Park in Acton, West London. The brickwork is white, the windows are large, there’s a central door to the flats above and a small shared garden outback. It is not unlike any other home on this lower-middle-class residential street.
In fact, being a quiet little street discretely dotted with cars, trees and the occasional house converted into a community-minded business like a dentist’s, a doctor’s surgery or a nursery, it’s not unlike any other street. It’s a nice homely place where families live, and here they can feel safe and protected.
If you were expecting a glib comment or an amusing quip by myself, as often happens in his part of the podcast as a bit of light levity before the heart-breaking horrors of this story folds? Think again.
(Don’t let the music end, don’t add a busker or an interstitial. Don’t add anything familiar).
Olga was born Olga Voronina on 19th March 1980 in Moscow, Russia. Raised during the death-throws of this communist state - with the Soviet Union dissolved on 26th December 1991 - Russia developed closer links to the West and Olga’s financially-successful family fulfilled their middle-class aspirations.
With political isolation a thing of the past, fortune was on their side as they headed into a bright future.
With blonde hair, hazel eyes and a warm smile, Olga was blessed with an inviting face which matched her intoxicating personality. And combined with a methodical brain and hard-working ethic, it was clear to everyone she met that she would be a success. By the turn of the millennium, she was studying law at Moscow State Law Academy, by the mid-2000’s she was doing her post-grad’ at BPP Law School in London and – being fluent in English – she worked for several corporate law firms in the City.
Her life was blessed; she wasn’t rich, but her life was good, she worked hard and the rewards paid off.
Like anyone else, she enjoyed the fruits of her labour; but she didn’t go to excesses, she didn’t commit criminal acts, she didn’t set-out to hurt anyone and she didn’t have a bad bone in her body. She had a brief history of depression, but who doesn’t? And through good diet, yoga and medication, she coped.
By the end of the 2000’s, Olga had met and fallen in love with Dean Freeman, son of famed celebrity photographer Robert Freeman and a talented photographer in his own right, having shot portraits of the Spice Girls and David Beckham. Together Olga & Dean travelled the world and lived the jet-set life of everyone’s dreams; first-class tickets, exclusive parties and - to escape the stresses of life – they holidayed in a Brazilian tropical hideaway amidst the rain forest overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The perfect life had fallen into place for Olga. With good careers, the couple married, moved into a million-pound Edwardian house in Acton and on 3rd January 2010, their son Dylan Valentine was born.
They had it all and they lived the good life...
...but even for those who don’t deserve it...
...fate can be cruel.
Dylan was sweet child, a little dot of pink flesh with a mop of blonde hair, just like his mum. Like any parent, this bundle of joy was a delight, as – in their eyes – he was beautiful and perfect in every way.
But at a few days old, it was clear that Dylan wasn’t well, he couldn’t feed properly and his lungs were weak. Unlike the other babies, he didn’t cry, instead the best he could muster was a weak high-pitched wail, like he was eternally dying. Physically, his body was frail and malformed; with a head abnormally small, a degenerative eye-sight and a narrow set of hands and feet crudely held together by weak muscles and loose joints (which made simple tasks like standing, walking and holding objects difficult).
Dylan was diagnosed with Cohen’s Syndrome, one of the rarest congenital birth defects with only five hundred known cases across the world, and a genetic disorder for which there is no known cure.
With his body fighting against him, Dylan’s little life would be plagued by physical disability. Requiring constant love and care - twenty-four hours a day, seven-days-a-week – he would be unable to walk, feed or function without help. With his brain as underdeveloped as his body, Dylan was also on the autistic spectrum, which meant he was prone to mood swings, struggled to communicate, and when he was sad or in pain, he couldn’t express it, so instead he would howl like a wounded wolf cub.
And as if that wasn’t enough, he was also at a higher risk of infection and autoimmune disorders.
Disability aside, Dylan blossomed into a lovely little boy who everyone described as gentle, happy and sweet, and whose favourite part of the day was cuddling up to his mum as they watched Peppa Pig.
Olga gave up everything for her beloved son; her career, her lifestyle, her dreams. As a smart driven businesswoman, she became a full-time carer, as he was her everything - her world - and she was his.
Olga was a great mum; dedicated and loving. To stimulate her son’s body and his brain, she took him swimming, to the park, to art galleries, and together this family of three went on overseas holidays. To aid his education, he went to a special needs school five-days-a-week. And when she needed it, she got in a respite carer, as she knew that she had to be physically and mentally fit in order to cope.
It wasn’t easy, but Olga was incredibly patient. Although he struggled to swallow food, she would turn meal-times into play-time just to get him to eat. As he howled by night, she sang him to sleep, and – drained of all energy – she slept whenever she could. Friends all said “she always put a brave face on”, never showing if she was stressed, as she wasn’t doing this for her, she was doing this for him.
Olga was holding it together...
...but owing to the stresses of work and caring for Dylan, Olga & Dean separated and later divorced.
To keep some consistency, Dylan spent the summers with his dad in Barcelona, where he now lived. But with the family home broken-up as part of the divorce settlement, Olga & Dylan moved into a small two-bedroomed ground-floor flat at 18 Cumberland Park in Acton, not far from his school.
As a recently single mum with a severely disabled son, life was hard but she coped. As he grew older, larger and began to enter puberty, Dylan became more disruptive, and yet, still she coped.
But when the whole world was plunged into chaos...
...everything that Olga & Dylan relied on, collapsed.
It was said in court: “she did an awful thing... but she was not an evil person, even if it was an evil act”.
Through the winter of 2019 and 2020, Covid-19 wasn’t a major issue; Brexit was on our mind, Trump was still President and our Prime Minster (Boris Johnson) had dismissed it as a Chinese problem. With the virus over there, rather than over here, the world had side-stepped several outbreaks over the last decades – such as Swine Flu, Bird-Flu, Sars-1, Ebola – and Spanish Flu was a distant memory.
On 16th March 2020, like many countries across the planet, Britain entered a national lockdown...
(Insert soundbite of Boris Johnson announcing lockdown restrictions).
Unessential shops were shut, unnecessary travel was banned and public gatherings were forbidden. Everything was pared down to only the most basic of essentials, and as key workers carried-on – doing a heroic job with no overtime nor protection - the selfish shoved the vulnerable aside, ransacked the shelves and the sale of fridge freezers surged, as the irresponsible hoarded chips, pizzas and Kiev’s by the kilo. It was a crisis which showed everyone in their true colour – dividing the selfish and the selfless.
Three days later, Olga celebrated her 40th birthday alone. Although in good spirits, she was rightfully concerned about the virus, as her son was at a higher risk of infection than most. But with very little credible information being released on how to protect them both, all she could do was to be vigilant.
For many, it was a time of great uncertainty; as rules were flouted, masks were non-existent and the unscrupulous sold hand-sanitiser at grossly inflated prices. Initially, the lockdown was only supposed to last for three weeks, but as the infection rate sky-rocketed, emergency measures were introduced.
On the 25th March 2020, the British Government fast-tracked through Parliament the Coronavirus Act; to give them powers to slow the spread of the virus and to reduce the burden on public resources. Overnight, every school closed and many parents (who were unqualified) became their child’s teacher.
But this act also relaxed the legal onus on local councils to provide case for those with Special Needs, so alongside every school being shut, vital care and support services were withdrawn overnight.
Parents of Special Needs children were said to be “quaking in their boots”, as “many of our children have behavioural problems. They can be highly aggressive and self-destructive. They are bouncing off the walls, scratching themselves or lashing out. It's like a pressure cooker only there is no break”.
Gone was the specialist care. Gone were the respite carers. One week earlier, Dylan was attending a special school five-days-a-week - an important time which aided his development and wellbeing – as well as giving Olga a brief window to sleep and mentally-reboot. But now it was just the two of them.
Olga & Dylan were alone, stuck inside a small two-bedroomed flat, day and night. With her family in Russia, her ex-husband in Spain, travel banned and her friends isolating (as everyone was), doors and windows were locked and – shielding to protect him from infection – this twosome stayed at home.
Even little changes to his routine were traumatic, but now everything familiar was gone. And as Dylan became more unsettled and agitated, the less he slept, the less she slept, as a numbness filled her mind and her body. But still – being a loving devoted mother – she never gave up, she ploughed on.
As carefully as she could, she took Dylan for walks in the park, they played on a little trampoline in the back garden, they cuddled on the sofa watching endless episodes of Peppa Pig, and she even bought him special pillows to help him sleep... which he rarely did. Every day was exhausting, every night was identical, and with lockdown extended from weeks to months, there was no end in sight.
Or so it seemed.
(Insert soundbite of Boris Johnson announcing the easing of lockdown restrictions).
On 10th May 2020, after just nine weeks of limited isolation; with PPE still unavailable to every health care worker and the UK listed as the worst infected country in Europe and second worst in the world, the lockdown restrictions were lifted. Masks were binned, holidays were booked and pubs reopened.
We were three months from a second wave and six months from a vaccine, but with “fuck it” being the national response, and “I’m bored now, I deserve some fun” - with the government caring more about money than its people - the truly selfish acted as if a global pandemic had never happened...
...and that it wasn’t still killing (as it is, as of today) thousands of people every day.
Lockdown had devastated Dylan’s mental health, it left him agitated and volatile. But combined with the isolation and the exhaustion, even worse was how it had impacted on Olga. To help her sleep, she had started taking Melatonin, a natural sleep aid to help sedate her and Dylan. Being at her wits-end, she was prescribed anti-depressants, as well as pain-killers, as having to constantly carry her ten-year-old boy from sofa to bed to the bath, the physical stresses of being his carer had damaged her knees.
She hadn’t slept in weeks; her smile was gone, her eyes were dark and her skin was sallow. Olga was now little more than a hollow ghost of her former self. But still – being the devoted and loving mother of a little boy who she would love with her last dying breath – she cared for Dylan as best she could.
Throughout, she kept in regular contact with Ealing Council who provided her son’s care, and although some services returned, with a severe backlog and a staff shortage, they were “slow to respond”.
On 26th June 2020, she asked the council for an increase in the carer’s allowance, but this was rejected. On 6th July, as the carer was part-funded by herself and she was unable to work, she requested an increase in funding to help cover the cost, but no decision was made. And on the 7th July, she called the council stating that she was “under significant pressure”, that she was “feeling forgotten” and that – more importantly - she was “so stressed, she was not functioning mentally”.
Those words should have raised alarm bells...
...but they didn’t.
Diagnosed with depression and anxiety, Olga suffered a breakdown owing to the extreme stresses she was under. She was overwhelmed and broken, but her care for Dylan didn’t stop for a single second. And never once was he hurt, abused or malnourished, as she never stopped loving her little boy.
In the week leading up to the 15th August, Olga’s depression had developed into a psychosis. Unable to eat; chain-smoking and guzzling coffee to keep herself awake, she was sleep-deprived and isolated. And as her reality blurred, her mind was distorted by the sound as Dylan howled like a wounded wolf.
At times, Olga said she was experiencing “supernatural events”; she heard voices, she saw apparitions, and – gripped with delusions of grandeur - she even believed that she was the second coming of Jesus.
Edita Surpickaja, her friend and former nanny was worried. Having heard Olga’s ramblings about “her mission”, how “they were waiting for us in Jerusalem” and how “this was the best thing for Dylan” - worried she would flee the country, having purchased two tickets to Tel-Aviv – Edita hide her passport.
But by then, it would be too late.
On Saturday 15th August 2020, at about 10pm, Olga texted Edita with the words “I am done”. Calling her back, Edita was so concerned she recorded their conversation, as Olga admitted “I have sacrificed my beloved child to create a balance in the world”. It was impossible to believe, but sadly, it was true.
Edita arrived at 12:45am. She wasn’t allowed into the bedroom, but Olga confessed to what she had done. At 2am, she reported to Acton police station stating “I have killed my son”, and at 2:15am, with Dylan found unresponsive, the little boy was pronounced dead, and Olga was arrested for his murder.
Seeing this as her only option, Olga was as gentle with his death as she had been with his life. Having fed him a sedative in a spoonful of mashed-up banana, as he softly drifted-off, she tucked him up under her duvet to keep him safe and warm, as – for the last time – she kissed her little boy goodnight.
As Cohen’s disease had ravaged his lungs, always struggling to breathe, to aid his departure, she placed a bath sponge in his mouth and secured it with the strap of her bra and a strip of Sellotape. He didn’t panic, he felt no pain and his death was quick, as he faded-away into a long eternal sleep, surrounded by the toys he loved so much; his teddies, his Thomas the Tank Engine and his Peppa Pig. (End)
A post-mortem was conducted at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where a pathologist confirmed that death was caused by upper airway obstruction. There were no signs of abuse, bruises or neglect.
On the 25th January 2021, the trial was held at the Old Bailey with Olga seen via video-link from the Orchard Ward, a psychiatric unit at St Bernard’s Hospital in West London, where she pleaded guilty to manslaughter. It was undeniable to everyone that this was a truly tragic case of a single mother doing her best under extraordinary circumstances, and which both Dylan and Olga were the victims.
In her summation, the judge stated to Olga: “that you loved your son and sacrificed yourself for him I have no doubt. The burden of caring for a severely disabled boy was one you took on, as mothers do, out of love and duty. I can see that and I can see how you discharged it faithfully for years. You fought for your son to have the best support, but it was a burden that took an enormous toll on you. Although he was not able to tell you so, I am sure you were loved by him and there will have been many joys in the life you led together. I have no doubt at all that you were a loving and dedicated mother to a vulnerable child, until multiple pressures overwhelmed you and your mind”.
On 11th February 2021, Olga Freeman was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order, and (as of today) she remains at the Orchard Unit. A report into the council’s lack of care during the pandemic, stated “It is clear from the evidence of this review so far, is that this death could not have been foreseen".
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
As always, if you enjoy a bit of non-compulsory chit-chat about cake, tea and other details about his case, as well as a little quiz, then feel free to join me after the break.
A big thank you to my new Patreon supporters who are James Parry, Verity Herrington, Emily Clark and Margaret Christensen. I thank you for supporting the show as well as my ever-expanding waistline. With a special thank you to James for your kind donation via the Supporter link. I thank you.
Murder Mile was researched, written and performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER
The Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast has been researched using the original declassified police investigation files, court records, press reports and as many authentic sources as possible, which are freely available in the public domain, including eye-witness testimony, confessions, autopsy reports, first-hand accounts and independent investigation, where possible. But these documents are only as accurate as those recounting them and recording them, and are always incomplete or full of opinion rather than fact, therefore mistakes and misrepresentations can be made. As stated at the beginning of each episode (and as is clear by the way it is presented) Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast is a 'dramatisation' of the events and not a documentary, therefore a certain amount of dramatic licence, selective characterisation and story-telling (within logical reason and based on extensive research) has been taken to create a fuller picture. It is not a full and complete representation of the case, the people or the investigation, and therefore should not be taken as such. It is also often (for the sake of clarity, speed and the drama) presented from a single person's perspective, usually (but not exclusively) the victim's, and therefore it will contain a certain level of bias and opinion to get across this single perspective, which may not be the overall opinion of those involved or associated. Murder Mile is just one possible retelling of each case. Murder Mile does not set out to cause any harm or distress to those involved, and those who listen to the podcast or read the transcripts provided should be aware that by accessing anything created by Murder Mile (or any source related to any each) that they may discover some details about a person, an incident or the police investigation itself, that they were unaware of.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards", one of The Telegraph's top five true-crime podcasts and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totalling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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