South East Wales

Care workers use glove puppet to bully elderly women

Two care home workers have been given suspended jail sentences for using a Green Goblin glove puppet to bully elderly women.

Cardiff Crown Court heard how Helen Males and Eleni Saunders frightened two residents with a Green Goblin puppet at The Old Rectory care home for Alzheimer or dementia patients, near Cardiff.

Males, 34, received a 52-week jail term and 22-year-old Saunders was given 38 weeks. They must also observe a curfew for the next 24 weeks between 2000 and 0800.

Branding the offences "disgraceful", Judge Philip Richards banned them from working in the care profession indefinitely.

He said the defendants ridiculed and frightened those in their care and asked the pair how they would feel if someone close to them was treated in the same manner.

"They were employed to care for them but they ridiculed them, frightened them and caused distress to them on repeated occasions," he said

The puppets were based on the Green Goblin character in Spiderman

The court heard the pair laughed while using the puppet to scare women patients, aged 87 and 91.

Prosecutor Leighton Hughes said they made "growling noises" with the puppet, an evil character from the Spiderman comics, to frighten their victims.

He said: "Males pulled a glove puppet from behind her back and thrust it towards the woman, making a growling sound.

"Saunders, her partner in crime, held the woman's hands in her lap at one point so she couldn't fight back.

"She was so scared she slid down in her chair to try and get away and they laughed."

Other staff at the Old Rectory were so shocked by the behaviour they raised the alarm and the pair were arrested.

Mr Hughes said the home catered specifically for elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia.

"The ladies were vulnerable with little understanding and we say were known by these defendants to lack mental capacity and so were easy targets," he said.

"They bullied, victimised, belittled and scared them, just for the fun of it."

He said the women had also amused themselves by "flicking" the ears of patients.

Males, of Barry, and Saunders, of Wenvoe, had denied all three charges that they breached the Mental Capacity Act in their role as care workers.

They were convicted of two charges and cleared of one.

Males must also complete 250 hours unpaid work, while Saunders must complete 200 hours.

One of the victims, 87-year-old Eva Bramhall, has since died and the others were not called to give evidence.

After the verdict, her daughter-in-law Carol Bramhall said: "I'm shocked about what happened. I'm just so upset to think that could have happened to her."

Det Insp Huw Thomas of South Wales Police applauded the judge's decision to ban the women from the profession for life.

"I think this is the worst sort of offence because people put their relatives in these homes to be looked after and cared for and then something like this happens," he said.

"I think abuse of the elderly is one of the worst crimes because they are vulnerable and can't retaliate or stand up for themselves."

He praised the care worker who raised the alarm for her bravery in reporting the incidents.

But he said those who put relatives in homes should also be vigilant in checking that they are being properly cared for.