All Rights Reserved
A severely disabled woman was locked in a hot car as her carers went on a shopping spree.
Claire McMullen, 58, was left wearing a big coat and sweating profusely when she was found on a hot July afternoon when temperatures reached 68F outside.
Nigerian caregiver Sylvia Ezeorji, 47, and her colleague, Veronica Howe, 52, only returned to the car in Chatham High Street, Kent, almost two hours later.
Howe, of Chatham, and Ezeorji, of Dagenham, of east London, both pleaded guilty to neglect at Medway Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
She suffers from autism, learning difficulties, cannot speak and required 24/7 care because she was at risk of choking on food left the car.
Members of the public dialled 999 when they saw the vehicle which had tinted windows rocking thinking a dog was locked inside.
By the time officers smashed a window to free her she had been cooped up inside for at least an hour-and-a-half.
She was immediately given water before being taken to hospital by ambulance to be checked over.
The pair admitted their actions fell below what is required of them but claimed they did go to check on her in the car but left her there again and just forgot about the time.
But magistrates told the pair their inexcusable behaviour was ‘callous and selfish’ and showed a ‘total disregard for a person’s life.’
Because of the seriousness of the case, their sentencing was sent to crown court as it can impose longer jail sentences.
Magistrates heard Ms McMullen was deemed a very vulnerable adult and needs two-to-one care 24 hours a day as she is in danger of choking on food so cannot be left unsupervised.
Prosecutor James Nichols told the court: ‘She was left on her own with a coat on in the middle of summer with water and crisps left for her, which she could not open.
‘They spent two-and-a-half hours shopping and an estate agent had seen them arrive at 1.25pm and the police were called out to the car at 3pm, she had been in the car for an hour-and-a-half at that point.’
He added police saw Ms McMullen repeatedly rocking herself in the car, which had tinted windows.
The weather had been overcast, but very humid with the temperature around 20C.
He said one of the officers looked in and saw a woman in the back with a purple coat on and no shoes.
He added: ‘He knocked on the window and the woman shuffled her feet, but made no eye contact.
‘Three attempts to open the car were made before the window was smashed and when paramedics arrived and gave her water, she drank at speed.’
The court also heard a statement from the manager of Ms McMullen’s care home in Crawley, who said the support workers had told him they were going shopping with her in town.
He had thought that meant they were going to Crawley or nearby, as taking a resident out of the borough would need to be authorised beforehand.
The statement also said the pair knew her care-plan and had helped draw it up, so leaving her in the car showed a total disregard for the plan.
Chairman of the bench, Veenod Rama, said: ‘This is an extremely serious case and you showed a total disregard for a person’s life.
‘There is no excuse, it was callous and selfish behaviour on a very vulnerable person.’
A date for Ezeorji and Howe’s sentencing at Maidstone Crown Court has not yet been fixed.