A COUPLE are awaiting their sentencing fate after being found guilty by a majority verdict of the unlawful killing of Enniscorthy woman Evelyn Joel in January 2006.
Evelyn's daughter Eleanor Joel (38), and her partner Jonathan Costen (40), of 37 Cluain Dara, Enniscorthy, had both pleaded not guilty to the unlawful killing of 59-year-old Evelyn Joel by neglect on January 7, 2006. The trial was before Judge Sean O Donabhain at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court and lasted two weeks.
The jury of seven men and five women retired on Friday morning to consider a verdict, and they returned a majority verdict of 11-1 at 4.50 p.m.
Defence Counsel, Rosario Boyle S.C., asked that both a psychological report and a Probation and Welfare Report be prepared on Eleanor Joel before sentencing be passed. Her colleague John O'Kelly SC, apearing for Costen, also asked for a Probation and Welfare report in relation to his client.
Justin Dillon S.C., for the prosecution, informed the court that there was no objection to bail under certain conditions while the reports were being prepared. He asked that both surrender their passports, notify gardai of any change of address, and sign on once a week at Enniscorthy Garda Station.
Granting bail, Judge O Donabhain adjourned sentencing to Monday February 11 next.
The trial had heard from Prosecuting Counsel, Justin Dillon S.C., that central to the case was that Evelyn Joel had suffered from multiple sclerosis.
The State's case focused on the final four to five weeks that she was in her daughter and her partner's house before being moved to hospital, saying in that time she was in bed all of the time.
Prosecuting Barrister, Philip Sheahan B.L., told the jury on Thursday last that Evelyn Joel was critically ill when she was brought by ambulance to Wexford General Hospital on January 1, 2006.
' The prosecution asserts that both accused effectively did nothing in respect of decisions during that time. They neglected her and the neglect was gross,' he said.
He described how Mrs. Joel was immobile due to her illness, stating that inaction by both defendants had led to her bed sores becoming infected. This in turn led to her sepsis syndrome, which led to her admission to hospital, he said.
'She was in their house, but they did nothing. They did not care for her. They ignored her condition. They didn't lift the phone, they didn't look for help. They did nothing,' he added.
He said that Eleanor Joel claimed that she was unaware of her mother's bed sores and that she ' just got fed up' looking after her in the final weeks of her life.
Mr. Sheahan recalled Costen's words to gardai in an interview in early 2006: 'My neglect was that I didn't help her. My neglect was ignoring the situation.'
Rosario Boyle, for Eleanor Joel, said her client was made a scapegoat: 'She was blamed for the failings of others. She is a quiet person, who had a particularly dominant mother,' she added.
John O'Kelly, S.C., for Costen, rejected the prosecution's claims that his client killed her, saying a bug she caught at Wexford General Hospital infected her bed sores.
During the course of the evidence in a statement read into the trial, Jonathan Costen told gardai he was 'sorry for what happened to Evelyn'.
Jonathan Costen in his statement said: 'I am sorry for what happened Evelyn. For my part she was neglected by both of us. The neglect went on for two to three week. She was not cleaned, nor was her bed. I don't know about food.'
During the course of the trial, Detective Sergeant Terry Butler told of having obtained a search warrant to search 37 Cluain Dara, Enniscorthy. Entry was gained through the front door while the warrant was produced to both Eleanor Joel and Jonathan Costen.
He also told the court of having interviewed Jonathan Costen on January 13, 2006, at 37 Cluain Dara, while further interviews were carried out with medical personnel.
Both of the accused, he said, were arrested on January 30, 2006, and brought to Enniscorthy Garda Station for interview. He said Jonathan Costen admitted taking a phone from Evelyn when she was ringing the gardai, and that he broke the phone. The accused told him he had drink taken,and broke the phone against the wall.
Ambulance Technician, Ray Sinnott, told the trial that when they called to the house, Evelyn Joel was in bed. She looked very thin, and very pale. When he pulled the sheets down he saw nappies and excrement around her lower body, while the mattress was stained.
Hospital Technician, Dermot O'Brien, told of having to go to the bathroom at St. Patrick's Ward in Wexford General Hospital. Having taken over from the ambulance crew, in the company of a nurse, he found that she was dirty ' from her hair to her teeth, arms and legs'. As they held her in the bath trying to wash her, she moaned in pain.
Dr. Derek Forde, who attended the Joel house when the ambulance was called to the house, said: ' As I was going up the stairs there was an offensive smell. The smell in the room was overpowering,' he said.
' The blankets were not over her (Evelyn). She had some sort of nightdress but her condition was filthy,' he added.
Dr. Forde said there was no point in examining her as she was 'close to death as could be'. He added that the filth there ' was not fresh'.
Dr. Forde said he spoke to the defendant Eleanor Joel and Jonathan Costen after he went downstairs.
'I said I was shocked to see someone in that condition. I was just horrified and could not believe it.
' They (accused) said she (Evelyn) would not do what they wanted,' he added.
'I was shocked and angry. I contacted the Garda Siochana. I also rang Wexford General Hospital in advance, spoke to Dr. Fitzgerald, as it was going to cause some shock, as I was shocked,' Dr. Forde said.
State Pathologist, Dr. Marie Cassidy, told the trial that the death of Evelyn Joel was due to pneumonia.
Dr. Cassidy told the court that Evelyn Joel was comatose on admission to hospital on January 2, 2006, prior to her death on January 7.
There was no evidence to suggest she had been physically assaulted, said Dr. Cassidy, adding, that there was no evidence of a head injury, but there was advance brain damage due to multiple sclerosis. There was evidence of advanced multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Cassidy told the jury that Mrs. Joel died through pneumonia brought about by complicating sepsis syndrome due to infected pressure sores due to immobilisation due to multiple sclerosis.
As the verdict was announced both of the accused stood at the back of the court, looking clearly shocked at the verdict.