Northern Ireland

Seamus McCollum: Forensic officer 'no idea' what caused neck injuries

Seamus McCollum sisters Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Sisters Molly Gilbert (left) and Bernadette McFall (right) at Laganside Court on Monday at the start of the inquest into the death of their brother, Seamus McCollum

A forensic officer has told the coroners court that he "has no idea" what caused the injuries on the neck of a profoundly disabled man in a County Antrim nursing home.

Seamus McCollum, 56, had cerebral palsy and was fed through a tube.

His body was discovered in his bed at Maine nursing home in Randalstown in September 2011.

Marks and bruising were found on his neck and face.

Mr Armstrong, a chemist and principal scientific officer with the Forensic Science Service addressed the court.

He said his investigation had been "hampered" by the six to seven month delay there had been before he was asked to examine items from the nursing home and medical equipment used by paramedics who had attended Mr McCollum on the night of his death.

'Distinctive markings'

He said that his investigation took place after Mr McCollum's room had been decorated and he did not have access to the exact equipment that would have been in the room at the time of his death.

Mr Armstrong said he had invested a considerable amount of professional and personal time on the case but that he had still been unable to identify an object that could have caused the very distinctive triangular markings on Mr McCollum's neck.

The coroner, Joe McCrisken, then told the court that he too had spent a large amount of time on the case, more he said than on many other cases he had presided over.

In trying to ascertain what had caused the triangular shaped injuries to the the neck, he suggested to Mr Armstrong that it looked like a metal implement - something like a "fighting star".

Mr Armstrong said he believed that the object had been "flat and solid".

During the proceedings, a Manchester United bag was identified in a picture of the scene.

Mr Armstrong was asked if he had examined the bag.

He replied: "No".

Image caption Earlier on Tuesday, the court heard from the paramedic team who had been called to Maine Nursing home on the morning of Mr McCollum's death

Then one of Mc McCollum's sisters, who had been sitting in the court room, said that she had the bag at home.

The coroner requested she bring it to court on Wednesday to allow Mr Armstrong to examine it.

Earlier on Tuesday, the court heard from the paramedic team who had been called to Maine Nursing home on the morning of Mr McCollum's death.

'No pulse'

The lead paramedic explained that nursing staff had been carrying out CPR on Mr McCollum when they arrived and that he took over administering advanced resuscitation with his colleague.

He said they continued with CPR although Mr McCollum had "no pulse" and "his heart was not beating".

In a statement taken at the time and read to the court, the paramedic said he had noticed marks on Mr McCollum's neck prior to working on him but that getting him breathing was his priority.

When shown pictures of Mr McCollum's injuries, he was asked what he thought of the injuries.

He replied that he had never seen injuries like that after resuscitation but added that he had never seen post-mortem examination photos before either.

On Monday, the assistant state pathologist, Dr Peter Ingram, told the court there were a considerable number of worrying injuries for which no explanation has been given.

He said the possibility of strangulation could not be ruled out.

The final day of the inquest is due to be held on Wednesday.

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