Strangling theory over death at nursing home

A vulnerable patient found dead at a private nursing home is believed to have been strangled.

Police have launched a murder investigation into the death seven months ago of 56-year-old Seamus McCollum at a Co Antrim nursing home.

Mr McCollum died suddenly at Maine private nursing home in Randalstown in September.

However a murder probe was not launched until Friday, prompted by the results of an autopsy.

The Belfast Telegraph understands the autopsy suggest that Mr McCollum, who had learning disabilities and who had been living at the home for nine years, may have died from suffocation or strangulation.

No arrests have yet been made.

A source close to the nursing home said that suspicion over the west Belfast man’s death was initially raised by a paramedic who said he was concerned by a mark on the victim’s neck.

A post-mortem examination was carried out following the sudden death, but it was not until the results of the State Pathologist’s final autopsy that a decision was taken to launch a murder investigation.

The source added: “Questions were asked at the time and one paramedic mentioned a mark on this man’s neck which would suggest he may have been choked. But then not much else emerged — until the bombshell at the weekend.

“The patients’ families were all contacted and told what was happening.

“Everyone was shocked. All staff members were called in on Saturday and updated.”

A spokeswoman for the nursing home said last night that staff were “shocked and distressed” by the findings of the pathologist’s report.

A statement from the nursing home added: “Our thoughts are with the deceased’s family at this time. We are offering assistance to police and the health care trust who are investigating this matter.”

Mr McCollum died suddenly in the nursing home on the evening of September 12.

It is understood members of his family visited him on the day of his death.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) — the independent health and social care regulatory body for Northern Ireland — said it is working in partnership with the PSNI and local health trust “so that appropriate measures are being taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all residents at this service”.

A spokesman added: “Given the ongoing PSNI investigation RQIA is not in a position to comment further at this time.”

Maine private nursing home cares for people with learning disabilities and can cater for 25 patients.

Two more patient deaths are understood to have occurred at the home last year. But the PSNI did not find anything suspicious.