Care home manager Rachel Baker guilty of manslaughter

April 9, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A drug addict nurse sobbed in court after she was found guilty of killing an elderly patient in her care with an overdose of painkillers.

Rachel Baker, 44, administered Lucy Cox, 97, with a lethal dose of a drug which she was never prescribed because of a twisted desire to control her ”terminal destiny”.

She also stole an estimated 8,000 doses of medication intended for patients to feed her addiction to prescription drugs.

Baker – a registered nurse – then doctored medical records to hide her addiction from the authorities.

She claimed to have spiralled into drug addiction due to the ”stress, pain and emotional turmoil” of running Parkfields Residential Care Home in Butleigh, Somerset, with husband Leigh, 50.

A jury of five men and seven women found her guilty of the manslaughter of Mrs Cox after deliberating for 34 hours and 17 minutes at Bristol Crown Court.

She was found not guilty of the manslaughter of patient Frances Hay, 85.

The jury found her not guilty of murdering both women on Thursday (09/04).

The case was adjourned for sentencing but Baker was warned she faces a mandatory jail sentence. She could be heard wailing as she was taken down to the cells.

She had previously pleaded guilty to 10 counts of possessing class A and C drugs, and one of perverting the course of justice by doctoring records.

The case raises huge questions about how care homes are regulated after Baker was able to collect residents’ prescriptions and siphon them off to fuel her addiction.

She is estimated to have diverted a staggering 8,000 individual doses from six patients in her care in just over a year.

Opening the case in January, prosecutor David Fisher said: ”From autumn 2005, Rachel Baker began to abuse prescription drugs and by the end of 2006 she was addicted to, or had been addicted to, a variety of prescription drugs including diamorphine, diazepam and pethidine.

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

He added: ”Rachel Baker was, by her own admission, regularly taking prescribed drugs which must have had a substantial effect on her character and conduct.

”She, for a variety of bizarre and perverted reasons, may have had a desire to control the terminal destiny of some of her residents.”

Baker became a registered nurse in November 1987 and began working with Leigh’s parents at the Parkfields care home the following year.

But she started suffering migraines in 1999 and got hooked on prescription painkillers.

Her addiction spiralled out of control and in 2006 she began stealing prescription from patients including the heroin derivative diamorphine, pethidine and diazepam.

She stole a total of 8,000 individual doses of 10 different drugs between January 2006 and January 2007.

Baker was arrested in January 2007 in connection with seven suspicious deaths and detectives from Avon and Somerset police investigated a further six.

The Commission for Social Care Inspectorate (CSCI) closed the care home in March 2007 and the remaining residents were re-homed by social services.

In June, the bodies of Marion Alder, 79, Nellie ‘Mary’ Pickford, 89, and 81-year-old Fred Green – who had all died at the home – were exhumed from a cemetery in Butleigh, Somerset.

During the lengthy investigation Baker was questioned over the deaths of 12 residents at the home, which housed 16 elderly in a main building and nine in bungalows in the grounds.

But after reviewing the evidence, charges were only brought in relation to the deaths of Mrs Hay and Mrs Cox.

Deputy manager of the care home Christine Fish told the trial how Baker’s behaviour became more eratic and extreme from 2006 onwards.

She said: ”She was up and down in her behaviour. She was approachable one minute and unapproachable the next. She had mood swings.”

The trial also heard from colleague Kathy Slade, who told the jury she saw Baker tending to Mrs Hay in her wheelchair on November 20, 2006 and heard her say ”Frances, shall we end it all now?’

To which Mrs Hay replied ‘Oh no, darling. I’m all right, darling’ and then Rachel Baker said ‘Shall we do it now?’

Mrs Hay’s condition then rapidly deteriorated until her eventual death two days later.

Pathologists believe the original cause of death, recorded as acute ischemic bowel, was probably wrong but they could not offer an alternative as her body was cremated.

Mrs Cox died on January 1, 2007, and a post-mortem examination revealed she had a lethal dose of painkiller Tramadol in her system – a drug she was never prescribed.

Baker administered the massive overdose before calmly staying in the home and chatting with residents and fellow staff.

Police raided her home and found records which had seemingly been altered to hide her drug-taking stashed in cupboards and wall space at her home.

Baker, who is thought to have taken the stand against her the advice of her counsel, broke down as she told the jury she considered residents at the home as her ‘adopted family.’

When asked how she felt about stealing drugs from them to feed her addiction, Baker tearfully said: ”Disgusted and ashamed for everything I have put people through.

”I betrayed their trust. They cared for me and I betrayed their trust and that of everybody who has tried to support me.

”I am totally totally ashamed and disgusted at what I have done.”

The case has been adjourned for pre-sentence reports to a date to be fixed.

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