Pensioner died after attack by fellow resident just five days after moving into care home, inquest hears

A grandmother described as a “ray of sunshine” died after a fellow care home resident, who had dementia, attacked her with a walking stick, an inquest heard.

May Miller, 95, had moved into Beech House residential home in Halesworth, Suffolk, just five days before she was assaulted by 89-year-old David March as she slept on February 9 this year.

Care home staff found widow Ms Miller covered in blood after hearing screams and another resident sounding the alarm.

The retired school cleaner died in hospital on February 16 after being placed on a palliative care pathway.

Forensic pathologist Benjamin Swift noted lacerations to her scalp with internal and external bleeding, with no fracture to the skull or bleed on the brain.

There were also injuries to her forearms consistent with her trying to defend herself.

Mr Swift said Ms Miller had a history of natural diseases.

He said it is possible that the cause of death was linked to the attack by “temporal association” and that the “added psychological and physiological stress precipitated a deterioration in her already precarious state”.

A post-mortem examination recorded her medical cause of death as ischemic heart disease and acute bronchopneumonia.

Suffolk’s area coroner Jacqueline Devonish, recording a narrative conclusion, said that Ms Miller “died from natural causes precipitated by a violent assault on February 9 as she slept at her care home”.

She said that Mr March was “clearly hallucinating, he’s seeing someone different in that bed so he’s attacked” her.

She said that Ms Miller was well enough immediately after the incident to tell staff what happened to her.

Ms Miller’s daughter Ann Baldwin said: “I’m convinced that the trauma of what happened to her was what my mum died of.”

She said that her mother was “fit and well” when she put her to bed at the care home hours before she was attacked.

She said she was called back at around 9pm.

“I just got home and had a call from the care home to say they had had an incident, would I go down, which I did,” she said.

“I walked into what I can only describe as a bloodbath.”

She said her mother, whom she described as “very private”, had complained earlier in the week about a man going into her room.

Mr March, who had dementia, had moved into the care home on February 4 this year, his daughter Elizabeth Wilson told Wednesday’s hearing in Ipswich.

He had moved from a flat that he owned in warden-supported accommodation The Limes in Halesworth.

Ms Wilson said she had told staff at Beech House, during a pre-admission assessment, that her father had “episodes of paranoia” and thought his neighbours “were the Gestapo and coming to get him”.

Her father had “never showed any violent tendencies”, she said, adding that the attack came as a “huge shock”.

She said that her father died in March.

Julie Smith, the warden at The Limes where Mr March previously lived, said he appeared “slightly aggressive”, adding: “He seemed a nice chap but there was something not quite right.”

Ms Smith’s male manager took over visits after an incident where Mr March dropped his trousers, she said.

“I was concerned because his behaviour was escalating,” she said.

She said she did not pass on information to the care home due to concerns over confidentiality.

Amanda Bryenton, a senior carer at Beech House, said Ms Miller was a “ray of sunshine” and that Mr March was a “very sociable gentleman”.

Emma John, resources director for the group of care homes including Beech House, said that staff did not have all available information about Mr March from other agencies as it was not shared.

But she added: “We all took the view that the information, had it all been disclosed, wouldn’t necessarily have led the professionals to identify a risk of harm.”

Lorraine Elphick, acting homes manager at Beech House, said Mr March “had no recollection” of the incident afterwards.

Coroner Ms Devonish said she was concerned by the “lack of information sharing” and would write to The Limes and Suffolk Safeguarding to see if the situation could be improved.

She added that the attack with the walking stick “appeared to be the first violent outburst by David March”, adding: “From the evidence I’ve heard it’s unlikely to have been able to be predicted.”

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