Sunday 8 December 2019

Irish doctor admits stealing £10k from frail Alzheimer's patient

Disgraced Doctor Michelle Mellotte leaves Belfast Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to fraud
Disgraced Doctor Michelle Mellotte leaves Belfast Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to fraud

Cate McCurry and Ashleigh McDonald

A doctor who admitted stealing £10,000 from an elderly patient with Alzheimer's has been warned that she faces prison for the "mean and deplorable" offence.

Dr Michelle Mellotte pleaded guilty to a single charge of fraud at Omagh Crown Court sitting in Belfast.

The 61-year old, from Bannagh Beg Road in Kesh, Co Fermanagh, was charged with occupying a position in which she was expected to safeguard the financial interests of the pensioner and dishonestly abused that position to obtain £10,000 from Michael McGrory.

The offence was committed over a period from January 30, 2010 to April 22, 2011.

When the charge was put to Dr Mellotte, she replied: "Guilty."

The court heard that the victim, who was in his late 70s at the time, is now deceased. It also emerged that Dr Mellotte has since paid back the £10,000.

Crown prosecutor Sam Magee said the case against Dr Mellotte concerned an "arrangement" regarding a loan between her and the elderly patient, who at the time was suffering from Alzheimer's.

Describing the patient as a "vulnerable individual with ailing mental and physical health", Mr Magee said the doctor's plea indicated that she accepted she abused her position of trust to defraud the pensioner out of £10,000. Mr Magee added that it was the Crown's case that the financial arrangement between the doctor and her patient was "improper".

Dr Mellotte retired from her practice in Ederney in March 2012 while Mr McGrory died in December of the same year.

A defence barrister representing Dr Mellotte asked that sentencing be put back for a month to allow the preparation of pre-sentence reports and character testimonials. He also requested that his client be released on continuing bail until sentencing.

Judge Piers Grant agreed to continuing bail, but before she left the dock Dr Mellotte was warned that she could face jail for the "mean and deplorable offence".

Saying he accepted that the money "has eventually been repaid", the Judge told the Co Fermanagh woman it was "almost inevitable" that he will send her to prison.

She is due to be sentenced for the offence next month.

MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Tom Elliott, said the offence was a betrayal by a doctor.

"I hope that this is a one-off incident as it's very traumatic for the family who had to go through the situation," he said.

"It's a betrayal of trust and that's worrying. This person has done something terribly wrong and the patient has been betrayed."

John Coyle, SDLP councillor for the area described it as a "despicable crime".

"I would call for locals to look out for vulnerable people in our community and keep them in mind," he added.

"The whole community around Ederney and Kesh are in total shock at this. She left the practice some time after the offence was committed and left the community without a GP which rumbled on for a few months and left people without the right healthcare cover."

Dr Mellotte was also the GP for Arthur McElhill, who died in a house fire he started which killed his partner and their five children.

The GP told an inquest into their deaths in 2009 that she had prescribed Mr McElhill antidepressants, but he did not always take them. She said that before the fire he had complained of feeling down and overweight, and told her he was "tired of his wife's shouting in the house".

Dr Mellotte told the court she had asked Mr McElhill questions designed to find out if he was suicidal or homicidal, but his answers raised "no concerns".

Belfast Telegraph

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