Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 17:46 UK

Care home boss Rachel Baker guilty of manslaughter

Rachel Baker arriving at court on a previous occasion
Rachel Baker was found not guilty of murder

The former manager of a Somerset care home who stole drugs from its residents to feed her own addiction has been found guilty of killing one of them.

A jury at Bristol Crown Court convicted Rachel Baker, 48, of the manslaughter of Lucy Cox, 97, at Parkfields Residential Care Home in Butleigh.

She was cleared of the manslaughter of another resident, Frances Hay, 85. Both women died in November 2006.

On Thursday, Baker, from Glastonbury, was found not guilty of their murder.

She admitted 10 counts of possessing Class A and C drugs and one count of perverting the course of justice.

The court heard Baker, a registered nurse, gave Mrs Cox lethal doses of medication. At the time, she was abusing controlled drugs she had stolen from the care home.

Tests on Mrs Cox showed she had been given an "excessive dose" of the powerful painkiller tramadol in the 24 hours before her death.

'Abused trust'

Baker's trial heard analysis of strands of hair taken from her between January and May 2007 revealed she was abusing at least eight powerful prescription drugs, including pethadine, tramadol and fentanyl.

Jurors were told supermarket carrier bags filled with left over tablets which had not been sent back to the pharmacist were found at the home.

The court heard Baker's abuse of drugs began with the taking of a single tramadol tablet to ease pain in her back.

Det Supt Trevor Simpson: ''She has manipulated so many people for her own selfish ends''

During the trial, she told the court: "It just helped. It helped take the pain away. It was just one tablet and that started me down the path I went.

"In a way I desperately wanted someone to find out, because I wanted help."

But police said Baker, who blamed the stress of running the care home for her addiction, had opportunities to tell people about her problem and she failed to take them.

Det Supt Trevor Simpson, from Avon and Somerset Police, said: "Mrs Baker deliberately and dishonestly lied to, manipulated and abused the trust of others, including fellow healthcare professionals, carers and - most disturbing - the families of those residents in her care.

"All this deceit was for one selfish goal, to obtain the controlled drugs she wanted for her own addiction."

It's the end of a lot of hurt for a lot of people - this situation must never ever be allowed to happen again
Sarah Barnett
Co-worker of Baker

Opening the case against Baker in January, prosecutor David Fisher said: "Rachel Baker was, by her own admission, regularly taking prescribed drugs, which must have had a substantial effect on her character and conduct.

"She, for a variety of bizarre and perverted reasons, may have had a desire to control the terminal destiny of some of her residents."

After the verdicts, trial judge Mr Justice Royce told Baker it was "inevitable" she would face a custodial sentence.

Speaking outside court Sarah Barnett, who worked at Parkfields and was one of the people who raised the alarm about Baker's behaviour, said: "I'm relieved.

"It's the end of a lot of hurt for a lot of people. This situation must never ever be allowed to happen again."

'Explored all evidence'

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which is responsible for monitoring standards in care homes, said Baker "went to great lengths to hide her illegal use of drugs".

It said an inspection of Parkfields by the CQC's predecessor, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, in 2006 "involved extensive checking of medication records and stocks of prescribed medicines, which were in order".

It added: "These records should also - by law - have made clear that controlled drugs were prescribed on the premises, but they did not."

The commission said it was "introducing a new, tougher system of regulation for health and social care".

Mr Simpson said although the investigation was now closed he remained suspicious about other deaths at the home.

"We've explored all the evidence we possibly can," he added.

Baker was remanded in custody for sentencing on a date to be fixed.



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SEE ALSO
Care home boss cleared of murder
08 Apr 10 |  Somerset
Care home owner 'not a killer'
10 Mar 10 |  Somerset
Care home owner 'stashed drugs'
19 Feb 10 |  Somerset

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