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File picture: Pexels

Nurses played on phones as suicide risk girl was dying, court hears

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER Time of article published Sep 20, 2019

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London - A vulnerable woman died in a secure unit after two mental health nurses skipped six observation checks as they were too busy playing on their phones, a court heard.

Lauren Ellis, 22, was found strangled despite being recognised as a high suicide risk, a jury was told.

She was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes – but the final six before she died were not carried out, it is alleged.

Nurses Rory McDermott, 32, and Naomi Prestidge, 31, were seen on CCTV with their feet up, browsing the internet for holidays and playing music on their phones instead of doing their jobs, the trial was told.

The browsing included carrying out searches for the Hard Rock Cafe in Teneriffe in the staff room while Miss Ellis killed herself in a room next door, the prosecutor claimed.

Within minutes of the young woman’s body being found, the defendants panicked and were caught on camera falsifying reports, the court heard. They deny the joint manslaughter of Miss Ellis through gross negligence on October 12, 2017.

Opening the prosecution at Royal Court in Guernsey, Chris Dunford said the last check had been done at 1am. Prestidge only discovered that Miss Ellis was dead by chance at 2.42am. This meant all six checks prior had been missed, he added.

Three hours earlier, Lauren’s mother had called the centre to raise concerns with McDermott about her daughter. He assured her she would be all right – but he never gave the message to Prestidge, who was the shift co-ordinator that night.

Mr Dunford said both defendants were aware of Miss Ellis’s condition, her history of self-harm and the fact that they had responsibility for her care. He said the standard of care had been reasonable to 12.45am – but then it had ‘fallen off a cliff’.

Miss Ellis, who was a mental health campaigner, had been diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder. She was admitted to the Oberlands Mental Health Centre in Guernsey voluntarily the day before her death after her self-harming had escalated to contain suicidal urges.

Miss Ellis needed hospital treatment because of her self-harming five times in the six days prior to her death. A post-mortem examination concluded that she died of ligature strangulation.

Both defendants made false entries in the observation record check list just minutes after her body was discovered, the prosecutor claimed.

Both also knew Miss Ellis and how seriously she would self-harm, he added. The court heard that, from about 1am, both defendants could be seen on CCTV sitting in the staff room for a considerable period and engaging with one another.

Prestidge had her feet on a desk and was listening to music on her headphones. When police later seized her phone, she said she had been browsing the internet. McDermott admitted doing the same, but in his break.

The court was asked why Prestidge could be seen altering the check record list within about four minutes of Miss Ellis’s death. "Why was she wasting time when she should have been protecting Lauren?" asked Mr Dunford. "Was it self-preservation?"

Prestidge accepted making entries in the check record but said she had done so in the belief the checks had been done. McDermott told police he done too many shifts and had taken too much on. The trial continues.

Daily Mail

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