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Gardai look into how probe duo got nursing home jobs in Australia

Eimear Ni Bhraonain and Eoin Hahessy in Melbourne

Published 28/01/2012 | 05:00

GARDAI are probing if two former directors of a nursing home shut down by the authorities here were vetted before they were hired to work with elderly people in Australia.

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Miriam Holmes and her daughter, Hayley, ran the Avondale nursing home in Callan, Co Kilkenny, until July last year.

The pair left for Australia while the health watchdog HIQA secured a court order to shut down the home amid concerns over the health and safety of patients.

A team of detectives are investigating allegations against the mother and daughter.

A number of serious complaints have been made against the owners of Avondale by relatives of elderly patients.

One woman claims her 82-year-old uncle is missing several thousand euro from his bank account, while others allege their relatives' public service cards and medication disappeared. Allegations of the missing money and medication were detailed by the HIQA in court documents following its inspections of the home.

Officers are now in the final stages of preparing a file for the DPP. Chief Supt Mick McGarry also revealed that it was not yet clear if the pair had been vetted before they were re-employed in Australia.

He said gardai were looking into the matter.

Earlier this week it emerged that the mother and daughter had been working for a nursing home in Melbourne, Australia, since leaving Ireland last summer. Yesterday, the head of the company, Craigcare, confirmed they had worked at the 90-bed Plumpton Villa facility.

Chief executive John Gillett claimed, however, that the home had received clearance from both Irish and Australian authorities to employ the women.

Mr Gillett said the mother and daughter had been working in the nursing home in Glenroy, a north Melbourne suburb for "several months".

Mr Gillett stated that his company had employed the services of an immigration lawyer and that all checks were done by the relevant authorities in both Ireland and Australia.

"After receiving employment applications from both Miriam and Hayley Holmes, we used the services of an immigration lawyer and ensured that the employment background of both candidates was checked in Ireland and Australia."

He added, "We received clearance from both the Australian federal police and the relevant authorities and also the Irish police and authorities that both these candidates were okay to be employed by us."

He also said he was "saddened" that the company's good name had been brought into the matter.

Sources close to Craigcare indicated that the employment of both Miriam, as a manager, and Hayley Holmes was recently terminated due to "operational issues".

Miriam and Hayley Holmes were last seen in Ireland on July 22, 2011 -- one day after the Avondale nursing home was closed.

Gardai found a guide on beginning a new life in Australia in their hotel room near Dublin airport, where they stayed the night before leaving the country.

Chief Supt McGarry said gardai will go to "whatever length it takes" to extradite the mother and daughter if they are found to have committed a crime.

Statements have been taken from the relatives of elderly residents who lived in the Avondale nursing home as part of the probe.

"We're working very closely with the HSE," he said, adding, "If we find certain criminal charges are to be brought, we will look for the return of the former directors voluntarily."

He said that if the women do not return of their own volition, gardai would take whatever measures were necessary to extradite the pair.

Irish Independent

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