Elderly woman’s cause of death was suffocation by smothering, inquest finds

The inquest into the death of an elderly woman who died in a nursing home has found that suffocation by smothering with a pillow was the cause of death, in line with “circumstantial evidence”, even though there were no “identifiable” asphyxial signs on her body.

Veronica Vollrath, aged 83, from Tramore, Co Waterford, died in Killure Bridge nursing home outside Waterford City on January 9, 2012.

Her son, Gerard Vollrath, aged 48, was last year convicted of attempted murder and given a three-year suspended sentence.

That case heard that it could not be said for certain that Mrs Vollrath was not already dead when her son put a pillow over her face. Judge Paul Carney said Mr Vollrath’s motivation was “entirely compassionate and not at all malevolent”.

RELATED: Son gets suspended sentence for attempted mercy killing

Yesterday’s inquest in Waterford heard that Dr Khalid Jaber, the assistant State pathologist who carried out the postmortem, is now living abroad and not available to give evidence.

To finalise the inquest process, coroner John Goff said he was prepared to have Dr Jaber’s evidence read into the record. This was done by pathologist Dr Rob Landers of University Hospital Waterford.

The pathologist’s report stated: “Cause of death was suffocation, smothering by a pillow, as per circumstantial evidence, with no identifiable asphyxial [physical] signs.”

There were a number of contributory factors to the death, including the fact Mrs Vollrath had had a stroke, had hypertension, cardiovascular disease, another type of heart disease, and Alzheimer’s dementia.

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