Page last updated at 19:18 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 20:18 UK

Carer guilty of bed blaze murder

Mary Bennett
Mary Bennett was frail and unable to move or communicate

A care assistant who set fire to the bed of an elderly dementia patient at a Cheshire care home has been found guilty of her murder.

Christopher Bowyer, 25, watched Mary Bennett, 79, burn in her single bed at Clayton Manor Care Home, Congleton, on 17 August 2008.

He was convicted of murder and arson with intent to endanger life at Chester Crown Court on Thursday.

He was remanded in custody and will be sentenced on Friday.

During the trial, Elwen Evans QC, prosecuting, told the court that Bowyer held a cigarette lighter to Mrs Bennett's quilt until it was "well alight".

Bowyer preyed on Mary's vulnerability without a care for her pain and suffering
Family statement

His victim was severely affected with Alzheimer's and dementia so could not move or communicate as the flames took hold.

Mrs Bennett was taken to a specialist burns unit in hospital in Manchester, where she died a week later.

A post-mortem examination found the cause of death was bronchial pneumonia brought on by smoke inhalation and burns.

Bowyer, of Antrobus Street, Congleton, had formally denied the charges but refused to enter the witness box during the defence case.

Mary Bennett's charred room
Bowyer watched as Mrs Bennett's bed (left) caught fire

In a statement, Mrs Bennett's family said she was a "very quiet, gentle and unassuming lady".

"She had suffered with Alzheimer's for a number of years and was unable to do anything for herself, relying completely on the care of others.

"She was more helpless than a baby. Bowyer knew this, having been one of the people specifically responsible for Mary's care for over six months.

"Bowyer preyed on Mary's vulnerability without a care for her pain and suffering."

Det Insp Paul Bailey, who led the investigation, said Bowyer had never shown any remorse.

"The only emotion for me he has shown is feeling sorry for himself," he added.

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Carer 'killed woman in bed fire'
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