A man has admitted he ‘should have done more’ to care for his elderly mother and accepted he didn’t call for help while she was ‘withering away’ before her death.
David Holyoak, 53, and 61-year-old Robert Christopher Morgan — known as Chris — are on trial at Carlisle Crown Court.
Holyoak and Morgan deny a manslaughter charge which alleges that they unlawfully killed their respective mother and wife, 71-year-old Dorothy Morgan, by gross negligence.
Mrs Morgan, who lived with the men at Calder Avenue, Whitehaven, died at the West Cumberland Hospital in February, 2021, more than a week after she was admitted.
Medical staff found 5ft 1in Mrs Morgan was clinically dehydrated, severely malnourished and weighed only four-and-a-half stones. A pathologist concluded she died from severe emaciation and neglected infected pressure ulcers.
Today Holyoak — her son by another man — gave evidence.
During cross-examination by Iain Simkin KC, messages exchanged by Holyoak with a friend in October, 2020, were read in court.
“I think she is depressed and malnourished,” Holyoak had said in one.
By way of explanation he told jurors: “She hadn’t been eating anything.”
Mr Simkin asked him: “What provisions did you have, with Chris, to make sure your mum was cared for?” asked Mr Simkin.
“I don’t remember any,” said Holyoak.
In the October, his friend had said by text: “I’m going to say this sounds like you are watching a lady die.”
A second message from the woman read: “Honey, do you want her to see a doctor or let her wither away? Please just be honest.”
Mr Simkin asked: “Did you want her to wither away?”
“No,” replied Holyoak.”
The prosecutor suggested: “You didn’t care for her properly, or at all, really, did you?
“I should have done more,” replied Holyoak. “I didn’t acknowledge that (she might be dying). I didn’t want it to be true. I didn’t accept it as being true. I didn’t want to accept it as being true.”
Mr Simkin suggested: “But you knew it was true.”
“I don’t know,” replied Holyoak. “I suppose I must have accepted it as being true. I didn’t want it to be.”
Holyoak agreed that his mother was immobile for a significant period of time when she was living initially upstairs and latterly downstairs.
She was, he agreed, on her own for ‘hours and hours’ of each day. He said he hadn’t detected the smell of bodily excretions in her downstairs living area, nor seen any of her pressure sores.
It was put to Holyoak that neither he nor Morgan made sure she was moved properly from time to time to ensure she didn’t develop these sores.
“It hadn’t occurred to me to do so,” said Holyoak.
It was suggested by Mr Simkin that neither he nor Morgan ensured she was eating enough, and that in October, 2020, Holyoak knew she was malnourished..
“We tried to get her to eat,” he said. “We tried but we couldn’t physically force her to eat if she didn’t want to.”
When asked the same question in relation to water, Holyoak responded: “As far as I knew she was taking water.”
“You must accept,” suggested Mr Simkin, “that you didn’t check properly. Otherwise she wouldn’t have become dehydrated.”
Holyoak replied: “Yes.”
He agreed neither he nor Morgan ensured she had a safe and hygienic environment in which to live; that they hadn’t ensured she was kept in a hygienic physical state; nor cleaned of her bodily excretions.
Holyoak further accepted neither he nor Morgan ensured her physical health needs were met.
Both Holyoak and Morgan maintain they were respecting her wishes not to seek medical help. Mr Simkin suggested to Holyoak it ‘wasn’t physically difficult’ to have disobeyed Mrs Morgan By summoning assistance.
Mr Simkin asked: “I know it is hard, Mr Holyoak, but even when you knew she was withering away, you didn’t call for help, did you?”
Holyoak replied: “No.”
All evidence has now been heard in the case. Next week, barristers will deliver closing speeches to jurors.
Members of the jury will then hear Her Honour Judge Goddard KC give directions of law and sum up evidence before they retire to consider their verdicts.