A NURSING home owner who is under investigation for allegedly stealing money from patients sold her €405,000 house a month before fleeing the country with her children.
Gardai have yet to interview Miriam Holmes and her daughter, Hayley, who ran the Avondale Nursing Home in Callan, Co Kilkenny.
The nursing home was permanently closed on August 2 after an inspection by watchdog Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) found patients were being discharged in an unsafe manner.
While the authority was on site investigating the complaints, the directors of the home left the country, forcing the Health Service Executive (HSE) to take it over until it was closed some weeks later.
Now it has emerged statements have been given to gardai from one elderly man's family, detailing how he is out of pocket to the tune of more than €25,000.
Gardai have also received complaints that another elderly resident was pressured into signing over a cheque for €5,000 to Hayley Holmes in the days before the mother and daughter left the country.
Officers are now trawling through accounts for the shut-down nursing home in a bid to establish exactly how much money is missing.
One former resident told gardai that the owner withdrew his pension in Callan Post Office on July 10.
And it is understood that property belonging to residents, including pension books, other documentation, and clothes, have gone missing.
A senior garda source said that the investigation was "very sensitive" and "painstakingly slow" because of the vulnerability of the people involved.
A spokesperson for the health watchdog HIQA said while it couldn't comment on individual cases or legal matters, it was "co-operating with gardai where necessary".
If Miriam and Hayley Holmes -- the two directors of Avondale -- are prosecuted for breaches of the 2007 Health Act, they face a fine of up to €70,000 or two years in prison, or both.
The Irish Independent has also learnt that mother-of-four Miriam Holmes sold her detached house at The Weir on the Castlecomer Road in Kilkenny in June. It had been on the market since May.
Weeks after the property sale went through, she left the country with her daughter, Hayley.
It is understood that Miriam Holmes's other teenage daughter, Robin, and son, Simon, are also with her, while a third daughter, Alex, is studying nursing in Edinburgh.
Locals believe the family are in Australia as one of the children contacted a friend online and indicated they had moved to Melbourne.
It is understood that Miriam Holmes removed her youngest daughter Robin (17), from the Loreto secondary school in Kilkenny before moving abroad.
This is the first sign that Holmes may have actually been planning on moving abroad for some time before she started discharging patients from Avondale nursing home without informing the authorities.
Ms Holmes had started to discharge patients from the Avondale nursing home in July on the pretence of getting renovations carried out to comply with fire safety.
She told residents HIQA had demanded these improvements but that was not the case.
Staff became concerned as elderly and very ill patients were hurriedly placed in other nursing homes and contacted HIQA.
There was only one bag of potatoes left in the kitchen and staff had not been paid when the HSE stepped in.