Saturday 20 January 2018

Many harrowing details heard over seven weeks

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

IT was the worst case of neglect that a doctor had ever seen in his 25-year career.

When Dr Derek Forde walked into the bedroom, he found Evelyn Joel staring, wide-eyed, in a state of undress. She was very thin, very smelly and he could see her bones through her flesh. He was overcome by the stench in the small bedroom.

The Wexford ambulance service had called Dr Forde as when emergency medical technician Liam O'Neill arrived, he couldn't believe the sight before him.

He wanted a witness before he removed Evelyn from the house where she lived with her daughter Eleanor Joel, Eleanor's partner Jonathan Costen and their two young children.

The smell hit the ambulance man when he was half-way up the stairs. He found it hard to breathe and walked into the bedroom where he found "nappies everywhere".

There were excrement and flies on the bed and Evelyn was lying there, unresponsive. He went downstairs and put on a white suit and mask before going back in.

On the opening day of the trial, the jury heard harrowing details of how the victim was found.

It was not an easy case to listen to for the jury who sat through seven weeks of evidence inside the courtroom in Wexford town. Every day, Eleanor and Jonathan sat next to each other at the back of the courtroom as witness after witness was called. They both stared ahead of them.

Mr Costen, usually dressed in a zip-up top, dark coat and jeans, would remove his baseball cap. His expression rarely changed.

On a few occasions he exchanged words with his partner Eleanor.

There was no hiding Eleanor's distress though. From time to time she shared pleasantries in a quiet voice with others on the way in and out of court, but she looked distant.

Her dress was always unremarkable, and she usually wore dark bottoms and a fleece top.

There were uncomfortable moments for the jury during the trial such as when A&E nurse Mary Kelly told of seeing Evelyn in the back of the ambulance on that cold January night.

Ms Kelly described seeing larvae -- like maggots or flies -- on the middle-aged woman's body.

Evelyn had to be taken to a separate ward in the hospital to be washed before she was admitted because of infection control.

The staff who washed her recalled in court how she had lumps of faeces on her body and there was a "horrendous smell" that reminded staff of "flesh rotting".

Another time, Evelyn's son and Eleanor's brother, Liam Joel, who has not spoken to Eleanor since he learned of the circumstances of his mother's death in the media, took to the stand.

He admitted he had seldom seen his mother in the three years prior to her death. There were no words exchanged between him and his sister even though they stood feet apart.

Mr Joel gave details of his childhood, saying he was mostly happy even though money was scarce.

But evidence from Dr Brian Glanville, the psychologist who interviewed Eleanor after her mother's death, detailed a contrasting scenario for Mr Joel's sister growing up. He said Eleanor had told him about suffering depressive episodes since she was a teenager.

She told Dr Glanville they were a "weird family" and "nobody (got) on".

Mr Joel sat outside of the courtroom for most of yesterday with his partner and their two children.

Irish Independent

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