London – A disabled woman starved to death after her carer skipped a home visit to see her own mother instead, a court heard.
Tracy Burrows, 56, was jailed on Tuesday after a judge heard she did not even get out of her car after finding Julie Cleworth’s home in darkness.
She wrongly assumed the 43-year-old stroke victim was in hospital. Cleworth had in fact been discharged that day and put to bed at the back of the property, rather than in the living room as usual.
The mother of one, who was described as being “helpless as a baby” due to poor health, was found dead from starvation four days later. She was half undressed and half out of bed, having struggled to call for help.
Burrows denied gross negligence manslaughter at Liverpool Crown Court, saying she had checked the living room and called out to Cleworth on entering her bungalow. However, her account was contradicted by a junior colleague, who had accompanied Burrows on her rounds and insisted the carer drove past without entering the property in St Helens, Merseyside.
Instead Burrows used the 30 minutes allotted to visit her elderly mother nearby, telling her bosses she had checked every room of Cleworth’s house. This led the agency, Unite Healthcare, to cancel the care package. Burrows was convicted following a nine-day trial last month.
Judge Neil Flewitt, QC, told the mother of three that Cleworth relied on her regular carer for her “basic needs”. Jailing Burrows for three years, he said: “You neglected her in a way which led to her death.”
“If I deal with this case in any other way than a prison sentence I would be letting down Julie Cleworth and her family, and failing to protect thousands of other people in a similar situation.”
The court heard that Cleworth could not move without assistance following a stroke in 2013. She lived alone and had five care visits a day.
Cleworth’s mother Hilary Kenny plans to sue Unite Healthcare. She said she was pleased with the sentence, but added: “It will not bring my daughter back.”
The court heard Burrows, of St Helens, has four previous convictions for dishonesty.
Nigel Power, QC, defending, said Burrows had expressed remorse. But the judge questioned whether she was sorry, saying she had failed to take responsibility throughout the trial.