Leigh-on-Sea case shows 'hidden' elderly domestic abuse

An investigation into the death of an elderly woman has revealed gaps in the understanding of domestic abuse in old age, experts warn.

The 81-year-old, from Essex - referred to as "Mrs A" in the report - died after suffering a head injury in 2010.

The report on the Leigh-on-Sea woman indicated a history of domestic abuse reports during her 56-year marriage.

A serious case review into the reports of abuse found a number of opportunities had been missed.

The Southend Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Board review said Mrs A had had "considerable contact" with police, social care, her GP and others "in relation to alleged domestic abuse".

'Insufficient evidence'

Although she suffered a head injury and later died, the exact of cause of death remains unknown.

Her 88-year-old husband also alleged he was a victim of domestic abuse - at the hands of his wife - when he was taken into Southend Hospital in 2010.

After Mrs A's death in October 2010, police opened a manslaughter investigation but it was dropped because of "insufficient evidence".

Mr A died in November 2011.

The case review stated that Mrs A reported nine incidents of physical abuse in 2010 prior to her death.

However, Mrs A repeatedly turned down support which left professionals "concerned" but "powerless to help".

'Better understanding'

Christine Doorly, chairman of the safeguarding board, said she believed domestic abuse amongst the elderly was a "hidden issue".

She said: "One of the outcomes of the review is research into the prevalence of this type of domestic scenario."

Most services dealing with domestic violence are currently geared towards younger people, she said.

Simon Leftley, of Southend Borough Councill, said: "We believe the prevalence of domestic violence among older people is higher than people think and we hope that our review will assist other authorities and agencies facing similar challenges.

"Whilst the investigation concluded that the incident leading to this tragic death could not have been predicted or prevented," said Mr Leftly.

"It has highlighted areas for learning, particularly in respect of gaining a better understanding of the prevalence of domestic violence among older people and in developing appropriate strategies to manage risk in these cases."

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