Angela had a nagging fear about her mum's nursing home so she bought a tiny spy camera hidden in a clock... What it exposed was truly horrifying
- Five days of abuse caught on film at Oakfoss House, Pontefract, West Yorks
- Dementia sufferer Ivy was dragged across floor and threatened
- Angela Wood: 'I’m racked with guilt that the abuse could have ever happened’
- Last week Emma Bryan, 29, and her ex-colleague Katherine Wallis, 45, appeared at Leeds Crown Court after
admitting mistreating Ivy
- Bryan was jailed for 4 months; Wallis was given 12-month community order
When Angela Wood was five, she spent a year in hospital, bedridden with rheumatic fever. Each morning and evening, without fail, her mother travelled 20 miles by bus to visit her and spend as much time as possible at her bedside.
Angela never forgot the comfort and support her mum Ivy gave her in her hour of need.
So decades later, when Ivy developed dementia and needed to go into a nursing home, Angela resigned from her job at a local sweet factory so she could devote all her time and energy to her ailing mother.
Little could Angela have known that this simple act of kindness would actually help save her mum from unthinkable cruelty.
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CCTV captures Ivy, 89, being dragged by carer Emma Bryan from a chair to her bed
Bryan stands over Ivy menacingly as she appears in distress in her bedroom in the care home, Oakfoss House in Pontefract, West Yorkshire
The seven hours a day Angela spent visiting her mum at Oakfoss House in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, meant she was able to sense something was seriously wrong with her care.
Ivy may have been too ill to communicate with words but her daughter felt certain she could see fear and distress in her eyes.
When Angela shared her fears with her husband Simon, he suggested that the only way to know what was happening was to film what was going on in Ivy’s room when Angela wasn’t there.
So the couple placed a small CCTV camera inside an alarm clock. What they discovered will send a chill through anyone with a vulnerable relative in care.
Ivy aged 68, before her illness, attending her grandchildren's school sports day
The camera recorded harrowing footage of the frail 89-year-old being hit, shaken, sworn at and dragged across the floor by two female members of staff, who also withheld vital medication.
They called Ivy vile names and threatened her with even more violence.
Angela wept as the reasons became clear for the unexplained bruises on Ivy’s body; her torn pyjamas, which had supposedly been damaged in the wash; and her pitiful distress whenever her daughter said goodbye and left.
Angela, 56, says: ‘The images of Mum looking so very frightened and cowed are permanently etched on my mind.
'I’ll never be able to forgive those two women for what they put her through. I still can’t sleep at night, and eating is a daily struggle.
'I’ve lost 1½ st since November, and I’m racked with guilt that the abuse could have ever happened.’
Angela and Simon showed their damning evidence to the care-home manager, who immediately called the police.
Last week Emma Bryan, 29, and her former colleague Katherine Wallis, 45, appeared at Leeds Crown Court after admitting mistreating Ivy. Bryan was jailed for four months, and Wallis was given a 12-month community order.
Angela says: ‘I wish I could say we feel better now — that somehow the knowledge that those women have been punished for what they did to my mum has eased the pain of knowing how much she suffered at their hands — but it hasn’t made any difference.’
Of course, Angela has nothing to reproach herself for.
Until as late as August last year, she and Simon had been happy with the standard of care provided at the 22-bed secure residential unit close to their Pontefract home, and Ivy seemed settled there.
She moved into Oakfoss House after being diagnosed in 2005 with vascular dementia — a decline in thinking skills caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.
Emma Bryan, right, and Katherine Wallis, left, are captured drag-lifting Ivy across her bedroom floor
Angela says: ‘We visited three other homes before settling on that one. Mum took to Oakfoss House immediately. Like me, she had picked up on the warmth between the carers and residents, and found the atmosphere homely.
‘Plus, it’s only a ten-minute walk from our house, and it was where she wanted to be.’
Ivy had lived independently until she was 79, when she went into sheltered accommodation after being hospitalised with pneumonia. She then went into residential care three years later when she was diagnosed with dementia.
Angela says: ‘At that stage, Simon and I wanted to take Mum home with us and look after her ourselves, but the doctor said that wasn’t possible because she would be a danger to herself. She needed professional care.
Angela Wood and her husband Simon showed their damning evidence to the care-home manager, who immediately called the police
‘Everyone from her GP to her consultant assured me that it was the safest thing for Mum — and who was I to argue?’
Of course, the irony of those assurances isn’t lost on Angela now, and only exacerbates her despair at what her mother went through.
‘Mum was fiercely independent before the dementia, and saw it as her duty as a good citizen to help anyone who seemed vulnerable. She would always look in on elderly neighbours and pick up shopping for them even when she was in her late 70s.
‘If anyone deserved dignity in their care once they couldn’t look after themselves, it was my mum — yet she got the opposite.’
Ivy had worked hard in many different jobs throughout her life, and lived alone after her second husband George died of cancer 20 years ago — when Ivy was 69.
She missed him terribly but coped well with widowhood, seeing her daughter most days as well the many friends who lived nearby.
‘Mum often went on day trips to the seaside and was a regular at the bingo hall,’ says Angela. ‘She was very sociable and always full of energy. Even at 80 I wouldn’t have described her as old.
‘She was the kind of solid, dependable lady you were glad to have in your life. I’ve always adored her.’
Angela felt an especially strong sense of duty because her older sister June died of an aneurism in 1999 at the age of 55. ‘Also, Mum’s own sister has died, and so has my dad, so Mum is the only blood relative I have left.’
Simon, who’s 42 and a quality control manager, is similarly devoted to Ivy. Having lost both his parents to cancer when he was in his teens, she is like a second mum to him.
Angela believes the problems with Ivy’s care started when her health began to deteriorate in March last year. ‘Mum went from being chatty and sociable, able to feed herself and with some mobility, to being physically weak, uncommunicative and confined to a wheelchair,’ she says.
Carer Katherine Wallis leaving court after being sentenced (left) and Emma Bryan (right), jailed for failing to administer medication in an approved manner and ill treatment of a patient
Angela thinks Bryan and Wallace started to see her mother as a burden — and they knew that she struggled to communicate with her family, so any distress they caused her would remain secret.
Last August, Angela noticed some buttons were missing from a pair of Ivy’s pyjamas, and that another pair was torn. When she asked a member of staff for an explanation, she was told they must have been damaged in the tumble dryer.
‘Then we noticed bruises on Mum’s arms but the staff dismissed them as a side-effect of the aspirin Mum was taking,’ says Angela.
‘Her lips seemed very dry and she was getting urine infections again. We kept reminding the staff that Mum needed to drink plenty of water.
‘She had started taking anti-seizure medication in 2005 but she started having fits again, which shouldn’t have happened if she was taking the right dose of her medication. I mentioned this to the staff, too.’
Angela’s concerns seemed to be falling on deaf ears, however. ‘I think the day staff thought I was being overly anxious and that I was questioning their ability to do their jobs properly. On the whole I trusted them but I just had a niggling sense that something wasn’t quite right.’
Angela and Simon hardly ever saw Bryan and Wallis because they mainly worked nights. The day staff they saw on a regular basis always seemed caring and attentive to Ivy’s needs.
‘Then Mum started to become very anxious,’ says Angela. ‘By this point she hardly spoke but she would communicate with her eyes. Sometimes I could see she was very frightened but I couldn’t work out why.
‘She began to shout out that she was sorry, and flail around with her arms as though she was trying to defend herself.’
Last November, things took a dramatic turn. Angela explains: ‘We noticed what looked like fingerprints on Mum’s arms — there was bruising in a pattern consistent with her being manhandled.
‘Then she started to cry when I got ready to go home, asking me not to leave her. Simon was there and he was as upset as I was, because she was in such obvious distress.’
He then broached the idea of doing some secret filming to try to get to the bottom of what was happening.
At home, he typed ‘secret filming’ into an internet search engine, and found a camera hidden in an alarm clock on the website Amazon for £40. Angela says: ‘We bought it, and Simon set it up in Mum’s room.
Oakfoss House residential home in Pontefract, where the catalogue of abuse took place
‘Even at that stage, all we allowed ourselves to imagine was that maybe she wasn’t being given enough to drink, that maybe she was being left alone all night and was frightened and lonely because of that.’
Over the next five days, Angela collected ten hours of footage on the secret camera. She switched it on when she left in the evenings then collected it the next day and took it home with her, leaving a similar alarm clock in its place so suspicions wouldn’t be aroused by its absence.
Simon would download each recording on to his laptop then recharge the clock-camera so Angela could take it back to Oakfoss to start the recording process again.
Five days later they sat down to view the footage — and were appalled by what they saw.Angela says: ‘Mum had a syringe shoved into her mouth very roughly then it was removed and the contents poured into a sink. We were horrified, and kept rewinding the film to make sure we weren’t mistaken.’
The syringe contained Ivy’s medications: it seemed that the care workers ran out of patience when they tried to administer it to her and simply discarded the drugs down the sink. But that was only the beginning of it. As the recordings played on, Angela and Simon became increasingly enraged.
Says Angela: ‘When I saw Mum being slapped, I jumped out of my seat and started screaming hysterically. Simon was shouting with anger and horror, and I was wailing.
‘These women were also calling Mum unrepeatable names — they hit her and swore at her, showing no regard for the fact that she was vulnerable and had been entrusted to their care.
‘As I watched Mum being dragged into her bed, I felt sick. My whole body shook with shock and anger: I’ve never felt that kind of distress before.’
But the sight that particularly upset Angela and Simon was Ivy flailing her arms and apologising. ‘In that moment, we realised why she had started saying she was sorry. She still does it to this day, which breaks my heart,’ says Angela.
After a sleepless night, she and Simon went to Oakfoss House and showed the recordings to the home’s two most senior members of staff. The manager phoned the police straight away.
Angela says: ‘I remember the police officers gasping with horror when they watched the film. They were clearly distressed, and one was close to tears.’
For the past nine months, Angela hasn’t been able to discuss the case or even show the film to her four grown-up sons for legal reasons. She explains: ‘It became evidence, so we couldn’t let anyone else see it.
‘We hid our copy in a drawer and vowed not to keep torturing ourselves by watching it over and again. It was only after the trial that the boys were able to see what had happened to their grandmother. They were as devastated as we were.’
Since seeing the recordings, Angela and Simon have had only one encounter with Ivy’s abusers.
‘Simon saw Emma in one of the aisles when we were in a supermarket a couple of months ago,’ says Angela. ‘He told me she was there and said we needed to walk straight out of the store, which we did.
‘It wasn’t that we couldn’t trust ourselves not to say or do anything in anger — neither of us would have sunk that low. We just didn’t need the agony of coming face-to-face with her.’
Ivy still lives at Oakfoss House but is moving to a new care home soon. Angela insists that this is not because she doesn’t trust the staff now caring for her mother, but because ‘there are just too many terrible memories there’.
‘We need a fresh start, and it’s taken until now to get everything in place,’ she adds.
Bryan and Wallace have been placed on the Independent Safeguarding List, which stops them from working with vulnerable adults again. And Angela offers her mother constant reassurance that nobody will ever hurt her or shout at her again — yet she finds herself on permanent high alert to any changes in her mother’s behaviour or mood.
‘I’d urge anyone with a loved one in care to do the same,’ she says.
‘Never be afraid to make a fuss or to flag up to senior staff when you suspect foul play — even if it’s only a sixth sense suggesting something’s wrong.
‘After all, we caught these women out on the very first time we filmed them, having expected to discover that, at worst, they weren’t giving Mum enough to drink.
‘We acted on a hunch — and thank God we did.’
It won’t be long before Bryan is released from prison and Wallace discharged from community service, at which point they will become free to rebuild their lives.
But for Angela, any release from her own anguish seems unlikely.
Instead, she has resigned herself to the knowledge that she will be haunted for ever by that terrible image of her beloved mother cowering at the hands of those who were paid to take care of her.
VIDEO:Dramatic home video filmed in Ivy Robinson's room
VIDEO: Wallis and Bryan 'draglifting' Ivy Robinson
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