AN 89-YEAR-OLD woman with dementia died after being ‘punched in the chest’ by another elderly woman suffering from the condition after an argument in a care home.
A coroner said Helen Noreen Patrick was ‘unlawfully killed’ in the incident, which started with a row in the dining room of the Burnley home.
Mrs Patrick, who had lived at The Grove in Owen Street, Rosegrove, for several years, was hit by fellow resident, Dorothy Hodgetts, 83, who also suffered from severe dementia.
At an inquest into Mrs Patrick’s death coroner Richard Taylor said a police investigation was launched after the incident but after Mrs Hodgetts was assessed by doctors a decision was made that she did not have the ‘capacity to form any criminal intent’.
He said no criminal charges will now be brought against Mrs Hodgetts.
Mrs Patrick, who was 4ft 9in tall and weighed less than seven stone, got around the home with the aid of a walking frame.
On the morning of February 10 she had been washed and dressed as normal.
Staff said Mrs Patrick, who was known as Noreen, was muttering under her breath and at around 8.50am had a heated exchange in the dining room with Mrs Hodgetts.
The care home’s manger, Julie Johnson, witnessed the incident as she walked through the room.
She told the inquest at Burnley Magistrates’ Court: “I saw a heated argument between two ladies and I heard Dorothy say ‘I’ll floor you if you speak to me like that again’.
“I then saw Dorothy hit her in the centre of the chest with a clenched fist and Noreen immediately fell backwards onto the floor.”
Registered nurse, Judith Evans, who was also in the room, she said she saw Mrs Patrick punched or pushed in her chest with such force that she was ‘lifted up off her feet and fell back onto the hard floor’.
Mrs Patrick cried out in pain and paramedics were immediately called.
She was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital where she died around three hours later.
A post-mortem examination revealed traumatic fractures to the lower part of her spine, injuries consistent with the fall.
Mr Taylor said: “I conclude from the evidence I have heard, those at The Grove could not have predicted this death.
“On February 10 Mrs Patrick was clearly in one of her moods and was muttering to herself. It appears that the other resident took exception and either pushed or punched Mrs Patrick to the chest.
“She would have had no knowledge, understanding or recall of her actions and this was undoubtedly a manifestation of her own condition.
“However, given the law, I have little alternative but to record a verdict of unlawful killing.”
Mr Taylor added that in cases where such a verdict was recorded he would normally send a report to the Crown Prosecution Service.
However, in this case he said that would not be necessary as the CPS had seen documents relating to the case and no criminal charges would be brought.
Speaking after the hearing Mrs Johnson said: “This was a very unusual and tragic case. Our sympathies go out to the families of both the ladies involved.”
Mrs Hodgetts no longer lives at the Grove.