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Wirral care home boss faces jail for 'wilful neglect' of pensioner
THE manager of a Wirral residential home has been warned to expect a jail sentence after being convicted of wilfully neglecting a pensioner.
Belita Howell was the manager of the Mother Redcaps home in Wallasey when 86-year-old dementia sufferer Walter Witcherley fell out of his bed.
He suffered a broken hip in the fall in April last year and died a month later from unrelated causes.
During a week-long trial a jury at Liverpool Crown Court jury heard how a member of staff had warned Howell, 58, that Mr Witcherley's bed had no working brakes and only one side rail.
Andrew Ford, prosecuting, explained that that was important because Mr Witcherley had been assessed as having a high risk of falling and had already spent six weeks in hospital after a fall.
Howell had responsibility for his welfare but, the court heard, she did not ensure he had a suitable bed at the home in Lincoln Drive.
When it was discovered he had fallen and was in hospital Howell orchestrated a "cover up", said Mr Ford.
She struck through a line in the maintenance book saying the bed needed fixing and she also "pressured" the maintenance man, John Murphy, into saying the work had been completed.
She then ordered him to dump the bed in the car park and have it replaced.
Howell, of Mosslands Drive, Wallasey denied wilful neglect of a person lacking capacity.
She claimed she thought the bed could not move at all rather than moving too easily.
She said she left the problem with Mr Murphy, who needed to get a new brake cable to fix it.
She said due to a mix up he thought she had told him to put Mr Witcherley in a bed with no brakes at all.
"John came to me (while I was on the phone) and said the only bed I have available is a trolley bed with no brakes.
"I said thanks for that and carried on with my conversation. I didn’t say put him in that bed. I was just accepting what he said."
She denied ordering a cover up or telling Mr Murphy to write a false statement in his log book.
She said that Mother Redcaps had seen 19 managers come and go in five years and it was difficult to get the owner to buy equipment.
Questioned by her barrister, Charles Lander, Howell, who had been at the home for five months, said that she has not been allowed to work since her arrest.
She said: "I am considered to be a potential risk to vulnerable adults. I was 42 years a nurse and am now considered a risk to vulnerable adults."
Her voice breaking with emotion she said: "I worked seven day a week at Mother Redcaps and when I went abroad I rang them every day.
"It wasn't a job, it was a way of life. It has been my life and perhaps that's way I don't have children, it has been so important."
After the jury found her guilty on Tuesday following two hours deliberations Judge Andrew Hatton told her: "You have been convicted by a jury on overwhelming evidence.
"There is no evidence that the injury sustained by Mr Witcherley was the cause of or precipitated his death.
"But it is clear to me that his final few weeks were made considerably more difficult than the weeks preceding the injury. He was left bed bound as a result of your neglect.
"All sentencing options are available and a custodial sentence is likely to follow," he said.
Howell was further remanded on bail to await sentence on November 7.