Care home manager ‘stole painkillers from residents and killed them’

The manager of a care home murdered two elderly residents whose painkilling drugs she had been stealing, a jury was told yesterday.

Rachel Baker, 44, is accused of killing the women by injecting them with huge overdoses of painkillers.

Bristol Crown Court heard that Baker, a registered nurse, had become addicted to a cocktail of drugs including diamorphine — pharmaceutical-grade heroin.

At first she was able to obtain the drugs from her GP by claiming that she needed them for her migraines. However, when doctors became suspicious and refused to prescribe any more she began misappropriating drugs intended for those in her care.

They included Lucy Cox, a 97-year-old resident of Parkfields residential care home in Butleigh, Somerset, who died on January 1, 2007, and Frances Hay, 85, who died on November 22, 2006.

The prosecution described how Baker, 44, had first been prescribed powerful painkillers in 1999 after complaining of headaches. As her dependencey increased she invented ever more desperate excuses for needing further drugs, including claims that her daughter had defaced her prescriptions and that her handbag had been stolen. After her doctors stopped prescribing the opiates she began to invent reasons to have them prescribed for residents.

She would also take drugs properly prescribed for residents and for her husband, Leigh, who had had a knee replacement. In the case of one resident, Fred Green, more than 1,900 ampoules of diamorphine were unaccounted for in the home’s records.

David Fisher, for the prosecution, said that Baker had admitted eight charges of possession of controlled substances and one of attempting to pervert the course of justice by altering the medical records of another resident whose drugs she was diverting. She denies the charges of murder and two other charges of possessing controlled substances.

Mr Fisher said: “She fed her addiction by taking drugs which had been prescribed not to her but to residents at the home and from her husband. On occasion she would simply steal drugs from residents. On other occasions she would obtain prescription drugs they might not require.”

He said that by 2005 staff at the care home, which was owned by her husband’s parents, noticed that she was increasingly erratic.

He said: “The cause of her behaviour was her addiction to drugs. By the end of 2006 she was addicted to — or had been addicted to — certain prescribed drugs, including diamorphine, pethidine and diazepam.

“Many of those drugs were prescribed lawfully to residents of the care home — drugs which Rachel Baker acquired unlawfully for her own use.

“It is with that background, the prosecution alleges she murdered one of the residents, Francis Hay, on November 22, 2006, by administering to her an overdose of prescription drugs.

“Likewise, on January 1, 2007, Rachel Baker murdered another resident, Lucy Cox, by administering to her a massive overdose of a drug called tramadol — a drug that had never been prescribed to Lucy Cox.”

After Mrs Cox’s death Avon and Somerset Police and the Commission for Social Care Inspection launched investigations into the deaths and the running of the home.

Mr Fisher said that Baker then forged records of another resident, who cannot be named, to hide from police the alleged misappropriation of prescription drugs.Record keeping at the home, which had 18 residents, had been “chaotic”, he added. “It was not like going into an office and finding all the files in apple-pie order. It was not like that at all, unfortunately,” he said.

The trial continues.