Evidence of nursing home staff rejected at inquest

 

A JURY has rejected the version of events offered by nursing home staff in relation to the disappearance of one of its residents in 2005.

Maura Reynolds (78) left the Tara Care Centre on Putland Road, Bray, Co Wicklow, on Christmas night 2005. Her body was discovered less than 1km away, at Bray Head, on February 19th this year.

After a two-day hearing, the jury at Dublin City Coroner’s Court returned a verdict of death by misadventure in a case which contained a “significant conflict of evidence”, according to coroner Dr Brian Farrell.

The inquest heard that nursing home staff maintained that Ms Reynolds was seen in the home up to and after midnight on St Stephen’s Day.

A nurse who no longer works with the home said she gave Ms Reynolds medication at 9.40pm while a care assistant said she saw Ms Reynolds in the home between 11.30pm and midnight.

However, two sets of CCTV footage showed a figure on the street and near the seafront between 9.30pm and 10pm on Christmas night. Ms Reynolds’s family said they believed that the figure was Ms Reynolds. And an independent witness was “adamant” that she had passed her on the street.

Det Insp Frank Keenaghan said he was convinced that Ms Reynolds had left the home “well before” the nursing home claimed she had. However, nursing home co-owner Anne Costello said she believed the version of events offered by staff.

After 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury said, as part a majority verdict, that Ms Reynolds had left the home at 9.30pm.

They also endorsed recommendations made by the HSE for improvements in the home and endorsed new practices introduced since Ms Reynolds’ disappearance.

The jury agreed with Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis that the cause of death was undetermined, due to the condition of the body.

Ms Reynolds’s son George thanked gardaí and all the other groups involved in the search for his mother.

Her daughter-in-law, Priscilla Reynolds, said the family welcomed the verdict, which brought “absolute closure”.

“What we’ve witnessed today has been a continuous pattern of neglect and we don’t feel that the fines imposed on the home were commensurate with the offence,” she said.

In January, the nursing home owners were fined €2,000 by Bray District Court, after pleading guilty to failing to ensure that suitable and sufficient care was provided to maintain the welfare and well-being of residents.

The nursing home owners were not at the hearing yesterday but their counsel Barry Ward said they expressed their condolences to the family.