Grandmother, 91, died after being thrown on floor, punched and kicked by man at Freckleton nursing home

A 91-year-old woman died two months after being thrown to the floor, punched and kicked by a man at the Freckleton nursing home where she lived.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 1:27 pm
The Old Vicarage on Naze Lane, Freckleton

Jessie McKinlay died on April 21 2019 as a result of the serious injuries she suffered during the violent assault, which took place at the Old Vicarage Care Home, on Naze Lane, in the early hours of February 14.

At an inquest at Blackpool town hall this week, a court heard that the frail mum-of-seven was dragged from her bed and hurled out of her room and into a hallway by fellow resident Alan Whiteside, 75.

The attack was witnessed by carer Samantha Davis, who had just started her shift. She said: "I walked from the lounge into the corridor and saw Jessie fly through the air and onto the floor. Alan came out of her bedroom and continued to kick and punch her until we got to him.

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The Old Vicarage currently holds a CQC rating of 'requires improvement'

"He started hitting out at us. We got Jessie and helped her to get into the room opposite and closed the door so Alan couldn't get in. He was shouting and banging on the door trying to get in."

Mrs McKinlay suffered a broken hip, a broken shoulder, and a slow bleed on the brain which led to her developing bronchial pneumonia and dying nine weeks later.

The court heard that Mr Whiteside, who suffered from dementia, was known to be aggressive and had attacked both residents and staff before.

He was nonetheless allowed to wander around the home unsupervised, and would frequently go into other residents' rooms.

When asked by coroner Alan Wilson whether she was surprised that Mr Whiteside had attacked Mrs McKinlay, she said: "No, because it had happened to other people. He had gone into their rooms and pulled them out of bed.

"He hit me many times. I reported it, but nothing was ever done."

She told the court that the care home's manager at the time, Sharon Clayton, told staff to stop logging complaints about Mr Whiteside's behaviour, and that if they wrote anything about him in their digital reports, those reports would be deleted.

She was so concerned about the home's ability to properly look after Mr Whiteside that she reported it twice to the CQC.

"It started off just wandering in people's rooms, and it got to the point where as soon as he was in somebody's room he would get violent or assault people," Ms Davis said.

Another member of staff, Helen Porter, said Mr Whiteside's aggression 'could get so bad it could be like he was trying to kill those he attacked'.

On New Year's Eve, an incident was reported in which Mr Whiteside allegedly punched Ms Davis in the eye.

Mrs McKinlay's daughter, Georgina Smart-Moon, also witnessed Mr Whiteside attacking a female member of staff while visiting her mum in late 2018.

"I heard someone shout 'help, help!' and I went out of my mum's bedroom, and at the bottom of the corridor I could see Alan with a carer, and he had her in a headlock," she said.

On another occasion, Mrs McKinlay's other daughter, Mary Eaves, saw Mr Whiteside hit an elderly female resident in the face.

The court heard that Mr Whiteside was known to wander around the care home and go into other people's rooms, including Mrs McKinlay's, and that the 91-year-old, who had mild dementia, had started locking her door to keep him out.

Mrs Eaves said: "I can't say when exactly Alan started coming into my mum's room. It was fairly soon after he arrived at the home. I escorted him out quite gently. I would place my hand on his back or his arm and he'd respond to it.

"(Mum) didn't like Alan in her room. She would say to him, 'get out'. She was uncomfortable around him."

In early 2019, Mrs Eaves noticed two bruises on her mother's face. When she asked a member of staff what had happened, she was told she had suffered a fall. But Ms Davis said that the injuries were inflicted by Mr Whiteside.

Whiteside was placed in care home to protect his wife

Alan Whiteside was moved into the Old Vicarage home in July 2018 after he began showing signs of violence towards his wife, and it was determined that she was at risk of further assault by him.

Caroline O'Brien, a social worker from Lancashire County Council, said she had been led to believe Mr Whiteside had settled in well by the care home's manager, Sharon Clayton, and that no violent incidents such as the ones witnessed by Mrs Eaves, Mrs Smart-Moon and Ms Davis were reported to her. She said if they had been, further action would have been taken to assess Mr Whiteside's placement.

She said: "When we do undertake visits, we only see a snapshot. We have to rely on the reports of the manager and any concerns that the manager has."

Just ten days after he moved into the care home, it was noted that Mr Whiteside had begun to mistake female residents there for his wife.

Carers said he would attack people while shouting his wife's name.

On October 1 2018, Ms Clayton told social services that the home was unable to look after the great-granddad after he was found to have armed himself with a fork and entered another residents room, and had to be stopped by staff.

But seven days later Ms Clayton changed her mind and said they could continue to meet Mr Whiteside's needs with increased supervision and one-to-one care.

When asked by Mrs Smart-Moon whether she had spoken to any of the carers at the home while reviewing Mr Whiteside's placement there, Ms O'Brien said that she had not.

She said: "I never had any concerns. Social workers rely very highly on managers reporting on their accounts. In terms of any incidents, these were not reported to us. We weren't aware of this ream of incidents."

Jessie McKinlay's death was caused by brutal assault

Pathologist Dr Alison Armor said the cause of Mrs McKinlay's death was bronchial pneumonia following a broken hip, broken arm, and a subdural haemorrhage - bleeding between the skull and the brain.

She said: "It's clear that this elderly lady suffered serious injuries as a result of the assault. She sustained a deep laceration to her left eyebrow, a fractured right hip, and a fractured right humerus near the shoulder joint. These two fractures are indicative of a serious injury and her mobility was markedly affected.

"The subdural haemorrhage was many weeks in age, and in keeping with nine weeks. This would be consistent with being sustained at the same time as the fractured right hip and right shoulder, at the time of the assault.

"There was little swelling on the brain. This could explain why death did not occur at an earlier time.

"From the time this lady was assaulted her condition deteriorated. She became increasingly frail and developed bronchial pneumonia."

After being attacked by Alan Whiteside shortly after 2am on February 14 2019, Mrs McKinlay was taken to Royal Preston Hospital in a stable condition and had a hip operation and a cast put on her arm.

However, no CT scan was carried out, and so the bleed on her brain was not detected.

Dr Diane Tobone said Mrs McKinlay did not meet the criteria for a scan, as she showed no symptoms of a serious head injury.

This was probably because of brain shrinkage which naturally occurs in old age, giving Mrs McKinlay's brain the space to bleed without pressure building up, Dr Armor said.

"In this case there was no significant swelling to the brain. In this case, when I looked at the haemorrhage, you could clearly see by the yellow staining that it had been there for some time," she said.

Mrs McKinlay was discharged from Royal Preston Hospital on March 19 and taken to the New Thursby care home in St Annes. She was taken to Blackpool Victotia Hospital on March 21, and returned to the home on April 2 to be placed on end of life care.

Dr Armor said her death on April 21 was caused by the attack nine weeks before.

When asked by Sion Davies, a lawyer representing the Lancashire NHS Trust, whether Mrs McKinlay's death could be partially blamed on her frailty and mild dementia, Dr Armor said: "No. If you had a lady of a similar age and she was not frail and did not have dementia, and she suffered these injuries, it is my opinion that should would have died."

Alan Whiteside was not fit to be held legally responsible for attack

Alan Whiteside was not arrested or charged for the assault which led to Jessie McKinlay's death due to his dementia.

PC John Gorst, who attended the Old Vicarage on the night of the attack, said: "When we arrived it was all calm. I recall Alan Whiteside was in the hallway, sat down, calm and composed. We spoke to staff briefly, they explained that Mrs McKinlay had been assaulted by Mr Whiteside. We were told that she had been pulled from her room and thrown to the floor in the corridor.

"I went over to Mr Whiteside and ushered him into the lounge, where he sat down. He wasn't aggressive towards us, but appeared to be very confused. I didn't ask what had happened due to his demeanor, and staff advised us that he had dementia and didn't have the capacity to know what had happened."

Coroner Alan Wilson said: "Ultimately, there wasn't any prosecution of Mr Whiteside. Nobody is disputing the fact that he didn't have the mental capacity to understand what had happened."

Following the incident on February 14, Mr Whiteside was moved to Rossendale nursing home in Ansdell, but was moved again just a few days later after staff were unable to deal with his violent outbursts. He was taken to a specialist unit at Belsfield House in Bispham, where he died in June 2021.

The inquest continues

Following the three day hearing this week, the coroner decided a conclusion could not be reached until further evidence was provided.

He said: "It's clear to me that further investigation is required, and this will require us receiving evidence from the manager of the care home. I also feel it may be appropriate for Pearlcare (the company which oversees the Old Vicarage) to provide legal representation."

The inquest will resume at a date to be arranged.