St Andrews Village nursing home in Ballina.
St Andrews Village nursing home in Ballina. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Nursing home murders: Haines to stand trial in Supreme Court

MEGAN Haines has been committed to stand trial in the Supreme Court over the 2014 alleged murders of Marie Darragh and Isobella Spencer at Ballina's St Andrews nursing home.

Haines appeared in Lismore Local Court yesterday before Magistrate Sinclair charged with two counts of murder and was represented by her solicitor Michael Blair.

It is alleged she administered fatal doses of insulin to

both women, who died on May 10.

The court heard evidence from four witnesses, Clinical and Forensic Toxicologist Associate Professor Naren Gunja, Ballina GP Dr Jerome Mellor, St Andrews deputy director of aged care Susan Cunningham and registered nurse Gillian Writer.

Mrs Cunningham said she was aware the families of Mrs Darragh and Mrs Spencer had said they didn't want either woman resuscitated or admitted to hospital as part of their Advanced Care Directives signed by their GPs.

Under cross examination by Mr Blair, Mrs Cunningham said it wasn't the practice of the nursing home to keep Advanced Care Directives on site - they were kept by their GPs.

Mrs Cunningham told the court she had a conversation with staff member Wendy Turner about Haines being the subject of complaints by Mrs Darragh, Mrs Spencer and another patient Marjorie Patterson.

The registered nurse at St Andrews, Gillian Writer, who had been practicing since 1969, gave evidence of finding Mrs Darragh sweating profusely, her pupils were fixed and dilated and she had no pulse or blood pressure.

Under re-examination by prosecutor Jeff McLennan SC, Mrs Writer said Mrs Darragh didn't have a history of diabetes so she didn't suspect she had hypoglycaemia (low blood sugars).

Dr Mellor said nurse Writer from St Andrews called him about 7am on May 10 to advise him of the conditions of Ms Darragh and Ms Spencer, who were both unconscious.

Under cross examination by Mr Blair, Dr Mellor was asked if more could have been done to save the women's lives.

"Did it ever occur to you someone should have picked up the phone and called triple-0," he asked.

"I have explained to you that the families had declined resuscitation and hospitalisation to prolong their lives," Dr Mellor said.

Assc Prof Gunja told the court it was standard practice in hospitals to check the blood glucose levels of unconscious patients but he wasn't sure if that applied at aged care facilities.

"Based on the post mortem results I have seen they both had profoundly low blood sugar levels," he said.

Satisfied there was sufficient evidence against Haines, Magistrate Sinclair committed her to stand trial in the Supreme Court on the two counts of murder. She will be arraigned on February 3.


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