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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Evelyn Joel was found in a shocking state

BRENDAN FURLONG at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court

Published 06/12/2011 | 14:01

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LYING IN BED with her thoughts, mother-of-two Evelyn Joel would surely have heard the childish laughter of her grandchildren as they opened and played with their Santa presents in the living room beneath her.

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After all it was Christmas 2005 and she was at home with her daughter Eleanor, her partner John and their two children at their terraced home in the Cluain Dara housing estate, overlooking Vinegar Hill in Enniscorthy.

Seven days into the new year of 2006 Evelyn would die at Wexford General Hospital. The multiple sclerosis sufferer could no longer care for herself; her son no longer spoke to her due to a love affair with her husband's brother, Alfie. Three years had passed without contact between the Wexford mother and her son before she died.

Every family has its own working dynamics, whether it is large or small, and the 59year-old came from a large family who would have helped her through her difficult, emotional times. They knew she remained devastated over the recent death of her partner Alfie, but it appeared Evelyn began isolating herself from human contact.

Her now 37-year-old daughter Eleanor and her partner Jonathan Costen (39) pleaded not guilty to the unlawful killing of Evelyn on January 7, 2006, by neglect causing her to die of pneumonia, complicating sepsis syndrome due to infected pressure sores due to immobilisation and multiple sclerosis.

They also pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment on a date unknown between December 1, 2005, and January 1, 2006, when intentionally or recklessly engaged in conduct, namely the failure to ensure that Evelyn Joel received nourishment; to attend to her sanitary requirement; to attend to her lack of mobility, and/or to obtain for her timely medical attention which created a substantial risk of death or serious harm. This charge was later withdrawn from the jury.

Media reports at the time, which resulted in a national outrage over the alleged circumstances surrounding her death and how her health care seemed to slip through the layers of bureaucratic procedure, were laid bare in gruesome detail at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court over the past seven weeks.

Almost six years have passed since her death and since then the case has been entangled in legal proceedings in the High Court and Supreme Court, before finally being given the go-ahead in October.

The court heard from Liam O'neill, an emergency medical technician (EMT) with Wexford Ambulance Service, of how he arrived at the small home at about 6.45 p.m. on New Year's Day 2006. Emergency services had been urgently summoned to the house. In the quiet courtroom, he chillingly recounted what he found as he entered Evelyn's small box room at that festive time of year.

'As I went up the stairs I got a strong odour. It got stronger as I went further up the stairs. On entering the room I found it hard to breathe. I spoke to Evelyn but she just stared with her eyes. She looked very sick and did not talk a word. The room was filthy, very stuffy and I found it hard to breathe,' he recalled.

'She had a quilt over her. I went down stairs to get a blanket, chair and continence sheets. At this stage I decided we needed a second ambulance. My colleague Ray Sinnott lifted the blanket on the bed

and the smell was stronger. We could not breathe. There were also flies in the room. Evelyn never spoke, never said a word, she was very sick. Her nails were brown and dirty.'

Before Judge Gerard Griffin, the court heard from second EMT Ray Sinnott about when Evelyn's duvet was pulled back from her thin and frail body. There were, he said, ' lots of nappies, excrement and urine stains on the mattress. There was excrement in her nails. [She was] just dirty'.

He put on a biological hazard suit over his uniform after what he found. A Caredoc doctor, who questioned reports from the EMTS upon arriving at the house, recounted his findings to Wexford General Hospital doctor Maurice Fitzgerald while the ambulance carrying Evelyn urgently made its way to Wexford General Hospital.

Hospital staff nurse Mary Kelly told the trial that when the ambulance door opened there was a really bad odour. 'I stepped into the ambulance and saw the woman who seemed very frail. Within a few minutes of assessing her I removed the three blankets which she was wrapped in. There was a pool of white fluff, I would describe like maggots.'

Nurse Kelly quickly got Dr Fitzgerald and nurse Carmel Watchorn to help her. 'Due to the infection risk we tried to isolate her from the other patients, with Carmel organising a bathroom. When I returned to the bathroom after the woman had been cleaned the bath appeared to me like a dirty river.'

Nurse Watchorn told of Evelyn appearing quite fragile, her hair being knotted and appearing pale, how there was a lack of hygiene in her groin area while her skin on the inner thighs appeared to be very dark.

Casualty nurse Deirdre Byrne said on going to the bathroom she found Evelyn being supported by nurse Watchorn due to her being in a weakened state. Her bones were plainly visible beneath her skin. 'I couldn't see her body as the bath water was all brown. I helped to hold her up and shower her down. At this stage I could see there were sores all over her body, the most visible being on her inner thighs and groin area. Her skin was completely broken down and there was a nasty smell which I associated with pressure sores.'

Her blood pressure was unrecordable when taken by medical staff. Perhaps, most telling of all in the case, were the comments from State Pathologist Marie Cassidy to defence counsel John O'kelly.

'In an ideal world, it would be better for people caring for [the] elderly that they had specialised training.'

Her death, she found medically, was due to pneumonia and there was no evidence to support any claim of long-term starvation.

Close to 50 witnesses gave evidence during the course of the trial. LYING IN BED with her thoughts, motherof-two Evelyn Joel would surely have heard the childish laughter of her grandchildren as they opened and played with their Santa presents in the living room beneath her. After all it was Christmas 2005 and she was at home with her daughter Eleanor, her partner John and their two children at their terraced home in the Cluain Dara housing estate, overlooking Vinegar Hill in Enniscorthy.

Seven days into the new year of 2006 Evelyn would die at Wexford General Hospital. The multiple sclerosis sufferer could no longer care for herself; her son no longer spoke to her due to a love affair with her husband's brother, Alfie. Three years had passed without contact between the Wexford mother and her son before she died.

Every family has its own working dynamics, whether it is large or small, and the 59year-old came from a large family who would have helped her through her difficult, emotional times. They knew she remained devastated over the recent death of her partner Alfie, but it appeared Evelyn began isolating herself from human contact.

Her now 37-year-old daughter Eleanor and her partner Jonathan Costen (39) pleaded not guilty to the unlawful killing of Evelyn on January 7, 2006, by neglect causing her to die of pneumonia, complicating sepsis syndrome due to infected pressure sores due to immobilisation and multiple sclerosis.

They also pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment on a date unknown between December 1, 2005, and January 1, 2006, when intentionally or recklessly engaged in conduct, namely the failure to ensure that Evelyn Joel received nourishment; to attend to her sanitary requirement; to attend to her lack of mobility, and/or to obtain for her timely medical attention which created a substantial risk of death or serious harm. This charge was later withdrawn from the jury.

Media reports at the time, which resulted in a national outrage over the alleged circumstances surrounding her death and how her health care seemed to slip through the layers of bureaucratic procedure, were laid bare in gruesome detail at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court over the past seven weeks.

Almost six years have passed since her death and since then the case has been entangled in legal proceedings in the High Court and Supreme Court, before finally being given the go-ahead in October.

The court heard from Liam O'neill, an emergency medical technician (EMT) with Wexford Ambulance Service, of how he arrived at the small home at about 6.45 p.m. on New Year's Day 2006. Emergency services had been urgently summoned to the house. In the quiet courtroom, he chillingly recounted what he found as he entered Evelyn's small box room at that festive time of year.

'As I went up the stairs I got a strong odour. It got stronger as I went further up the stairs. On entering the room I found it hard to breathe. I spoke to Evelyn but she just stared with her eyes. She looked very sick and did not talk a word. The room was filthy, very stuffy and I found it hard to breathe,' he recalled.

'She had a quilt over her. I went down stairs to get a blanket, chair and continence sheets. At this stage I decided we needed a second ambulance. My colleague Ray Sinnott lifted the blanket on the bed

and the smell was stronger. We could not breathe. There were also flies in the room. Evelyn never spoke, never said a word, she was very sick. Her nails were brown and dirty.'

Before Judge Gerard Griffin, the court heard from second EMT Ray Sinnott about when Evelyn's duvet was pulled back from her thin and frail body. There were, he said, ' lots of nappies, excrement and urine stains on the mattress. There was excrement in her nails. [She was] just dirty'.

He put on a biological hazard suit over his uniform after what he found. A Caredoc doctor, who questioned reports from the EMTS upon arriving at the house, recounted his findings to Wexford General Hospital doctor Maurice Fitzgerald while the ambulance carrying Evelyn urgently made its way to Wexford General Hospital.

Hospital staff nurse Mary Kelly told the trial that when the ambulance door opened there was a really bad odour. 'I stepped into the ambulance and saw the woman who seemed very frail. Within a few minutes of assessing her I removed the three blankets which she was wrapped in. There was a pool of white fluff, I would describe like maggots.'

Nurse Kelly quickly got Dr Fitzgerald and nurse Carmel Watchorn to help her. 'Due to the infection risk we tried to isolate her from the other patients, with Carmel organising a bathroom. When I returned to the bathroom after the woman had been cleaned the bath appeared to me like a dirty river.'

Nurse Watchorn told of Evelyn appearing quite fragile, her hair being knotted and appearing pale, how there was a lack of hygiene in her groin area while her skin on the inner thighs appeared to be very dark.

Casualty nurse Deirdre Byrne said on going to the bathroom she found Evelyn being supported by nurse Watchorn due to her being in a weakened state. Her bones were plainly visible beneath her skin. 'I couldn't see her body as the bath water was all brown. I helped to hold her up and shower her down. At this stage I could see there were sores all over her body, the most visible being on her inner thighs and groin area. Her skin was completely broken down and there was a nasty smell which I associated with pressure sores.'

Her blood pressure was unrecordable when taken by medical staff. Perhaps, most telling of all in the case, were the comments from State Pathologist Marie Cassidy to defence counsel John O'kelly.

'In an ideal world, it would be better for people caring for [the] elderly that they had specialised training.'

Her death, she found medically, was due to pneumonia and there was no evidence to support any claim of long-term starvation.

Close to 50 witnesses gave evidence during the course of the trial.

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