More inquests into deaths at Gwent care homes could be opened, says coroner

Evelyn Jones pictured with her grandson Gareth
Image caption Evelyn Jones died at Brithdir Nursing Home

More inquests could be opened into deaths at care homes in the Gwent valleys.

A pre-inquest hearing took place in Newport into the deaths of Dorothea Hale, Evelyn Jones, Stanley Bradford and Edith Evans.

They died at two homes - Ms Hale at Bargoed's Grovesnor Nursing Home and the others at New Tredegar's Brithdir Nursing Home.

The court heard the full inquests would take place in front of a jury.

Reviewing evidence

Coroner Geraint Williams said he would also review whether the state bore any responsibility for the deaths of residents.

Mr Williams, specially appointed to oversee proceedings, said he was reviewing evidence and "looking at some other cases".

In 2005, Gwent Police investigated six care homes in south Wales as part of Operation Jasmine.

In 2013 the case against the owner of two homes, Dr Prana Das, was halted after he suffered a brain injury.

Alleged victims

He was facing charges relating to neglect and fraud at Brithdir Care Home and The Beeches in Blaenavon.

The investigation identified 100 alleged victims.

After reading reports by the Health and Safety Executive and Dr Margaret Flynn, Mr Williams said he "may have reasonable cause to suspect the state may have some responsibility for the deaths".

Image caption The trial of Dr Prana Das for care home neglect collapsed after he suffered brain damage in an attack

The 2015 report by Dr Flynn said Dr Prana Das "should have and could have been prosecuted".

However, the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence.

Mr Williams said the investigation so far included 6,000 statements, 10,000 exhibits and tens of thousands of pieces of other evidence, totalling 12.5 metric tonnes.

He compared the situation residents were in to those in "state detention".

Image caption The Grosvenor nursing home has been under new ownership since September 2011

He said they "were not in any way able to make decisions for themselves".

He added that "stretching it perhaps a little, that's analogous to them being in custody".