Death of 95-year-old was hastened by violent attack at care home, inquest hears

May Miller was assaulted in her room at Beech House care home by another resident with a metal walking stick. Photo...

May Miller was assaulted in her room at Beech House care home by another resident with a metal walking stick. Photo: Bonita Dickman - Credit: Archant

The death of a much-loved 95-year-old “family lady” was hastened by a horrific attack with a walking stick in her bedroom at a Halesworth care home, an inquest heard.

Although May Miller died of natural causes after being admitted to hospital in the wake of the attack, a hearing at Suffolk Coroners’ Court was told the violent assault by another resident at Beech House care home could have increased the speed of her degradation.

Mrs Miller’s daughter, Ann Baldwin, told the inquest on Wednesday that her mother - who was very frail, with a number of health issues - had recently moved to Beech House following the closure of her former home in Hertfordshire.

After just five days at her new home and hours after Mrs Baldwin had visited to help put her mother to bed, staff at Beech House heard a scream from Mrs Miller’s room.

Mrs Miller told staff she had been hit with a walking stick by fellow resident David March, 89, another new resident who had recently moved from The Limes, also in Halesworth.

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The Limes was not a registered care facility but instead a block of flats with a warden that kept an eye on residents, the inquest was told.

The walking stick was left in the room after the attack on February 9 this year.

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“I walked into what can only be described as a bloodbath,” said Mrs Baldwin.

Mrs Miller was treated at the scene and later taken to the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.

She died in the hospital just a few days later.

The inquest was told that information about a deterioration in the behaviour of Mr March, who died earlier this year, had not been passed to the team at Beech House.

He had not been fully assessed by a mental health professional, having previously declined to be seen, but was believed to have suffered from hallucinations and have dementia.

He had previously been declined entry into another care home, because staff feared they could not support him.

Mr March’s daughter, Elizabeth Wilson, said the attack had come as a “huge shock” to her, as her father had never shown violent tendencies - although he had shown signs of paranoia.

Coroner Jacqueline Devonish said it was unlikely that Mr March’s outburst could have been predicted, even with full knowledge of his condition.

A post mortem examination found that Mrs Miller died as the result of ischemic heart disease and acute bronchopneumonia.

However, the forensic pathologist who examined Mrs Miller said the attack could have sped up her degradation.

Ms Devonish recorded a narrative conclusion into Mrs Miller’s death.

She also said that she would be issuing a prevention of future death report to The Limes and the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership.

She said she hoped that more could be done to see important information, such as details about Mr March’s mental health, shared between different bodies.

“May Miller died from natural causes precipitated by a violent attack on February 9 as she slept at her care home,” said Ms Devonish.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Mrs Baldwin - who had been visiting her mother every day, to help her settle into her new home - said: “When I left my mum on Sunday she was fit and well she was looking forward to coming to my house.

“I am convinced the trauma of what happened to her is what she died of.

“She was very quiet and just wanted to sit in her room and watch TV.

“She was just a kind lady. She was just a family lady.”

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