Northern Ireland

Kathleen Fegan inquest hears of 'unsupervised smoking'

Kathleen Fegan
Image caption Kathleen Fegan died after a fire broke out in her bathroom at Owenvale Court care home

An elderly woman who died in a fire at a Belfast care home was regularly given cigarettes and a lighter unsupervised, an inquest has heard.

Kathleen Fegan, who suffered from dementia, was critically injured when the fire broke out in her bathroom at Owenvale Court in 2012.

Br Michael Newman, acting manager at the time, said all steps were taken to protect 81-year-old Mrs Fegan.

However, he said: "I don't think she was able to understand the rules."

The inquest heard that on a number of occasions Mrs Fegan was found to be smoking in areas she was not meant to be, including her bedroom.

The court also heard that Mrs Fegan had burnt her underwear and trousers, and left cigarette butts burning in her bedroom bin.

'Having a conversation'

At the time of Mrs Fegan's death, care at the west Belfast home was provided by St John of God Association and Br Newman was acting manager between 2010 and January 2012.

Under questioning, coroner Patrick McGurgan asked him as to the appropriateness of simply "having a conversation about the dangers of smoking in a bedroom with a woman who had dementia?"

Br Newman replied he believed all steps were taken to protect Mrs Fegan from herself and her smoking.

Pushing the matter further, a solicitor for Mrs Fegan's family questioned whether she fully understood the rules.

Brother Newman replied: "No, I don't think she was able to understand the rules."

The home is now under new ownership.

The inquest continues on Tuesday.

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