Woman (78) found dead in Bray had left nursing home undetected before


A NURSING home resident who was found dead after leaving the home undetected had walked out of the premises on two previous occasions, Dublin City Coroner's Court has heard.

Maura Reynolds (78) left the Tara Care Centre on Putland Road, Bray, Co Wicklow, on the night of Christmas Day 2005, some time after she returned from a family gathering.

Despite extensive searches at the time, she was not found. Her remains were discovered in dense undergrowth at Bray Head on February 19th this year.

Dublin city coroner Dr Brian Farrell heard from nursing home notes that she had walked out of the home in September 2004. One entry said: "Got out of the nursing home at as she wasn't recognised by Niall as a resident of the house."

Another entry in April 2005 said that Mrs Reynolds had left the home through the kitchen door. She was in the car park when staff reached her.

Adrienne Egan, for Mrs Reynolds' family, said they had not been notified of these two "hugely significant" incidents. She pointed out that Mrs Reynolds had Alzheimer's disease and was a high-risk patient.

Nursing home proprietor Anne Costello said that families were usually informed of incidents involving residents but she could not recall Mrs Reynolds leaving the home before.

Ms Costello disputed the time at which Mrs Reynolds left the home. Barry Reynolds told the inquest that he brought his mother back to the home at about 8.30pm on Christmas night.

He left the home at about 9pm, when his mother was in the tea room with a member of staff.

Staff noticed her disappearance at 6.50am the following day. CCTV footage from Garda cameras and from an amusement arcade show a figure on the Strand Road and on the promenade at 9.43pm and 9.51pm, after the cameras' time clocks were adjusted for accuracy.

Ms Egan said Mrs Reynolds's sons were convinced that this was their mother. Her daughter-in-law, Priscilla Reynolds, said she was "absolutely satisfied" that the figure was her mother-in-law. An independent witness also claimed to have passed Mrs Reynolds at this time.

Barry Ward, for the Tara Care Centre, said it was "nigh impossible" to identify the figure in the footage.

Ms Costello said it was "definitely not possible" to say if it was Mrs Reynolds.

She said that a member of staff reported giving Mrs Reynolds her medication at 9.40pm and other staff reported seeing her at about midnight.

Asked to explain the discrepancy, Ms Costello said she could only rely on what her staff told her. "I honestly believe that Mrs Reynolds was in the nursing home at 9.40pm."

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said that Mrs Reynolds's cause of death was undetermined but "it may well have been the result of exposure and hypothermia".

The inquest continues today.