A 46-YEAR-OLD man has been charged with killing his elderly mother in a nursing home. Vera Vollrath (83) was found dead in bed by staff at Killure Nursing Home in Tramore, Co Waterford, on Monday.
Her son Gerard was charged with manslaughter at a special court sitting last night.
He replied "no comment" when he was charged. He was released on bail without entering a plea.
At first it was thought Mrs Vollrath had died of natural causes. However, a murder investigation began after the post-mortem confirmed the cause of death was suffocation.
Some hours after her body was discovered by nursing home staff, Mrs Vollrath's daughter, Anna Kirk, raised concerns about her death.
Gardai swooped to arrest her brother, Gerard, at Dublin Airport.
It is thought that Mr Vollrath, a helicopter engineer, was about to board a plane to return to his family in Austria, where he has a baby and a wife.
Mr Vollrath was freed from garda custody last night on a number of bail conditions after he was brought before a special sitting of Waterford District Court.
He is charged with the unlawful killing of Veronica 'Vera' Vollrath on January 9 at the nursing home.
Judge David Kennedy heard evidence from Gda Maureen Neary at the brief hearing.
Gda Neary said the defendant replied "no comment" after he was charged in Waterford garda station at 7.40pm.
The court heard that Mr Vollrath had agreed to strict bail conditions including that the gardai retain his passport, he does not apply for travel documents,he signs on daily at Waterford garda station and he remains at an address not publicly disclosed.
He was given bail on an independent surety of €5,000 from Anna Kirk and his own bond of €900.
The defendant, who remained silent for the short hearing, was ordered to appear before the court again next Tuesday. His brother, Paul, and sister, Anna, were both present in court.
In a day of dramatic developments it emerged that:
- Mrs Vollrath had battled a stroke, brain tumour and Alzheimer's.
- A doctor initially believed her death was from natural causes.
- The defendant was located at the airport after gardai telephoned a taxi driver while the suspect was fast asleep in the back of the cab.
The driver was asked if a stocky man with a moustache was in his vehicle before gardai instructed him to continue his journey.
Gerard's brother, Paul, yesterday looked distraught as he appealed for privacy from the family's home in Tramore Heights.
The family pulled the curtains at the door of the home and remained inside while they were visited throughout the day by gardai and neighbours.
Friends of Mrs Vollrath described her as a "lovely woman" who was deeply saddened by the sudden death of her German-born husband, Paul Vollrath, more than 10 years ago.
Sadly, Vera Vollrath had been living alone in her house in Tramore Heights following his death. Her three adult children shared a close relationship with their mother but lived away from home.
Gerard and Paul, who are both engineers, live in Austria, while Anna lives in Dublin.
Neighbours said she was "very low" after her husband's death. Mrs Vollrath's health had deteriorated recently and she had been living in the Killure Bridge Nursing Home.
Neighbours yesterday said the 83-year-old suffered from Alzheimer's and dementia.
Siobhan Hewison, who regularly visited Mrs Vollrath, as they were both members of the local active retirement group and sang in choir together, said her friend had suffered a massive stroke on December 9. She also had a brain tumour and her family were maintaining a bedside vigil in recent days.
Jack Barry, who also knew Vera Vollrath, said she was a "gentle fine lady" and her voice was "regularly heard in church".
The Killure Bridge Nursing Home last night issued a statement saying they were "deeply saddened" by the death.
"Killure Bridge Nursing Home is co-operating fully with state authorities as they carry out their investigations into Ms Vollrath's passing and we will continue to do so," it said.
"We are also providing our residents and staff with comfort and support during this very difficult and upsetting time and ask that the media do not add further to their distress and respect the privacy of our residents and staff."