Winterbourne View: New inquiry into earlier abuse claim
- 24 October 2012
- From the section Bristol
Police are to begin a fresh inquiry into the case of a patient allegedly punched in the face at a private hospital in Bristol.
Ben Pullar, who is autistic and has bi-polar disorder, had two teeth knocked out when he was a patient, then aged 18, at Winterbourne View.
The incident happened two years before the BBC's Panorama programme revealed widespread mistreatment at the home.
Eleven care workers are being sentenced for abusing five patients there.
Mr Pullar's twin brother, Tom, said that if the families of other patients at the hospital also came forward with events they would like reinvestigated, he wanted the reassurance they too would be looked at thoroughly by the police.
He said: "It's OK to have one review into what happened, but there's people out there who have been involved in abuse of these patients and they're free to walk away because they weren't there while the BBC were filming.
"It happened for three years before. The BBC were only filming for a five-week period and it's a culture that takes a very long time to develop."
Raised the alarm
The private hospital, now under new management, looks after people with severe learning difficulties.
Mr Pullar spent almost a year at Winterbourne View, from July 2009.
Daily care notes from his time at the hospital, obtained by Inside Out West, state Mr Pullar "had an accident with his teeth" just weeks after he arrived.
His family said they were given mixed messages about what happened and were told at one point he had "bitten the floor".
He was taken to Bristol Dental Hospital by Winterbourne View staff as an emergency patient, and two doctors there raised the alarm with the authorities because of the severity of his injuries.
Dentists said his injuries were consistent with being punched. Senior dental consultant Dr Jane Luker said: "I think they thought the injury he sustained wasn't consistent with what they were being told.
"He had allegedly bitten a carer and the injuries were sustained from him biting that carer.
"[But] because the teeth were pushed back palatally, towards the back of the mouth, it would be consistent with a punch or a blow to the front of the face."
The nurse involved, Maxwell Nyamukapa, was suspended and later reinstated.
Despite repeated attempts to contact Mr Nyamukapa, he has refused to comment.
The police logged it as an assault, and said the nurse had acted instinctively and in self-defence.
Police agreed the assault on Mr Pullar was "not acceptable" but said they would not reopen the case.
Now following "obvious concerns from Ben's family", a police spokesperson said they "have begun a fresh review of Ben's case".
"The abuse suffered by the patients of Winterbourne View was appalling in the extreme.
"We want to make sure we learn all we can from this, and address any lingering concerns about incidents that took place there."
Solicitor Charlotte Skouby, from the firm representing Mr Pullar's family, said: "We're extremely pleased that the police have decided to review the case given the strength of clinical evidence as to the severity of Ben's injuries..."
She added: "This is something we see in our practice all the time, complaints of mistreatment of vulnerable individuals.
"These complaints aren't being heeded by the responsible authorities."
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, which called for Mr Pullar's case to be reinvestigated, welcomed the decision.
He said: "People with autism can be incredibly vulnerable in these settings."
The Inside Out West investigation is available to watch until 29 October on the iPlayer.