Tuesday 23 January 2018

Verdict expected this week in alleged 'death by neglect' trial

A VERDICT is expected later this week in the Wexford Circuit Court trial of two people in relation to the death of Evelyn Joel in Enniscorthy almost six years ago.

The deceased's daugther Eleanor Joel (38) and John Costen (40), of Cluain Dara, Enniscorthy, have both pleaded not guilty to the u lawful killing by neglect of Evelyn Joel on January 7, 2006.

The trial opened in the Circuit Court last Tuesday and evidence continued on Wednesday and Thursday, before much of Friday was taken up with legal argument in the absence of the jury. Legal argument and applications continued yesterday (Monday), and an outcome is expected after the jury returns to the courtroom today.


When the trial opened, Prosecuting Counsel Justin Dillon S.C. told the jury of seven men and five women that central to the case is that Evelyn Joel suffered from multiple sclerosis, with the case focusing on the final four to five weeks she spent in the house of her daughter Eleanor and partner John Costen before she was moved to Wexford General Hospital.

Mr. Dillon told the trial that when found, Evelyn Joel was effectively in her own filth, as she had not been looked after. When she was brought to hospital she had to be washed down before the hospital could treat her.

Subsequently, said Mr. Dillon, a Post Mortem was carried out by Dr. Marie Cassidy, State Pathologist, who concluded that death came about through pneumonia brought about by complicating sepsis syndrome due to infected pressure sores due to immobilisation due to multiple sclerosis.

Ambulance Technician, Mr. Ray Sinnott, told of being called to the Joel's house with a colleague. When he pulled the sheets back there, he saw nappies and excrement around Mrs Joel's lower body, while her mattress was stained. They contacted the doctor after what they had seen.

Dr. Maurice Fitzgerald of Wexford General Hospital told of it being unusual to be asked to go to the ambulance, for normally a patient would be brought directly to casualty or a ward. When he went to the ambulance he saw the patient on a stretcher after which he ordered that she be brought to a ward. She looked sick and very thin. The decision was to bring her in, have her washed and then assessed.

Hospital Technician, Dermot O'Brien, said that he was asked to go to the bathroom at St. Patrick's Ward. Having taken over from the ambulance crew in the company of a nurse he found that Mrs Joel was dirty from her hair to her teeth, arms and legs. As they held her in the bath trying to wash her, she moaned with pain. Parts of her were ' black with dirt', he said.


On Wednesday, the court heard evidence from Dr. Derek Forde, who attended the Joel's house when the ambulance was called.

'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 defendants Eleanor Joel and John 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 stated.

'I was shocked and angry. I contacted the Garda Siochana. I also rang Wexford General Hospital in advance, spoke with Dr. Fitzgerald, as it was going to cause some shock, as I was shocked,' Dr. Forde said.

Ms Carmel Walsh-Byrne, Acting Nursing Manager at Wexford General Hospital, said that having been called to the unit by Nurse Mary Kelly, she saw Evelyn Joel who appeared very pale and unclean while her hair was matted.

She also said that Evelyn Joel's hands were quite dirty, her skin very pale and dirty, as were her nails, while there seemed to be red areas on her legs, with some of the sores appearing to have been broken. As she was bathed in an isolated area, she was very pale, with a film of dirt coming off her skin. She was quite uncomfortable as she was being lifted into the bath.

Mrs. Phyllis Costen, mother of defendant John Cosaten, told of Evelyn Joel not allowing her to do anything to help care for her during her illness. 'She was a very stubborn woman,' she said.

Mrs. Costen told of always visiting the house, 37 Cluain Dara, on Christmas morning.

'I visited the house that Christmas morning but did not see Evelyn on that morning,' she added.

She told of also having received a phone call from Eleanor Joel to go up to the house.

'When I went up, Evelyn was just lying there. I put my hand to her face and it was very cold. I rang for the ambulance. When I went into the room I was shocked when i saw her.'

The witness also told of going to Spring Valley Nursing Home, where there was one bed available.

'I went up to Eleanor to tell her but Evelyn threw it back in our face,' she said.


On Thursday, State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy told the trial that the death fo 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. Casidy, adding that there was no evidence of a head injury, but there was advanced brain damage due to multiple sclerosis. There was evidence of advanced multiple sclerosis. Examination of the chest showed no evidence of damage to the rib cage, but both lungs showed partial collapse.

Dr. Cassidy also said that there were small clots in the blood vessels leading to her lungs but her heart was healthy, of normal weight, with no evidence she had a heart attack.

Dr. Cassidy told the jury that Mrs. Joel died of pneumonia, adding, that when admitted to Wexford General Hospital she was camatose and suffered from hypothermia. Mrs. Joel, she said, was slim, but no comment could be made as to whether she had lost considerable weight.

Defence Counsel, Rosario Boyle, S.C., contended that the pneumonia that caused death was contracted only after admission to hospital. Dr. Cassidy replied the organisms which caused pneumonia were not the bed sores.

Wexford General Hospital Consultant, Dr. Colm Quigley, who treated Mrs. Joel over a period of time, said Mrs. Joel was a very independent woman.

Dr. Quigley also told the court that he found Mrs. Joel to be a very ill woman when she came to Wexford Gneral Hospital on January 2, 2006. He also said he was not surprised the cause of death was pneumonia for she was extraordinarily ill.


Legal argument in the absence of the jury, which cannot be reported upon, took place during Friday's sitting of the court.


Legal argument continued and certain legal applications were made. Both prosecution and defence made their closing arguments, and the jury is expected to retire today (Tuesday) to consider its verdict.

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