Maura Reynolds, 78, disappeared from the Tara Care Centre on Putland Road, Bray, Co Wicklow, on Christmas night in 2005 after returning from dinner with family. She was never found and is presumed dead.
At Bray District Court yesterday, counsel for Paul Costello, co-owner of the nursing home, and his wife Anne Costello, co-owner and manager of the premises, said they would both be pleading guilty to a breach of the Nursing Homes Care and Welfare Regulations. However, the hearing was dramatically halted when the Health Service Executive (HSE), which initiated the legal proceedings, handed in an incomplete copy of the regulations for Judge Murrough Connellan to consult.
The judge said some of the regulations cited by the HSE in their case were missing. “I think I will wait until I get a proper version,” he said, immediately adjourning the case to October 26.
Counsel for the Costellos Paul Anthony McDermott said his clients had been waiting in court all day for the hearing, which did not begin until shortly before 4pm, and had two GPs present as character witnesses.
One of the GPs was local Labour councillor John McManus.
Mr McDermott said if it was at all possible, his clients would be grateful to have the matter dealt with. Judge Connellan did not change his mind, however, and rejected an offer to consult the HSE’s own copy of the regulations.
Mr and Mrs Costello are accused under article 5 of the regulations of failing to ensure suitable and sufficient care was provided to maintain the welfare and wellbeing of a dependent person having regard to the nature and extent of the person’s dependency.
The breach was stated to have happened between December 20 and December 26, 2005. The HSE withdrew a similar summons alleging a similar offence on or about May 9, 2006 and also withdraw summonses alleging breaches relating to the number of staff on duty.
Ms Reynolds, a widow who was in ill health, vanished after enjoying Christmas Day with her son and his family. Extensive searches were carried out, but no trace of her was found and it is thought she might have fallen into the water at Bray seafront.