A senior manager at a nursing home recalled a “very, very worried” elderly resident telling her that she could not find her €20,000 cash reserve and a sentimental watch gifted to her husband on their wedding day.

The witness recounted the episode when testifying in the proceedings against her former assistant, a 37-year-old nursing manager, who stands accused of stealing valuables and cash from a number of elderly residents staying at the home. He has registered a not guilty plea. 

The accused, whose name was banned under court order together with that of the home where the alleged incidents took place, was granted bail upon arraignment after the matter was first reported to the police. 

Meanwhile, the compilation of evidence continues. 

This week the general manager took the witness stand in the presence of the accused who had been working as her deputy for the past three years. 

His role was similar to hers and involved showing prospective residents around the premises, making sure that residents were safe and comfortable and handling any complaints lodged by their guests or relatives.

There was a group chat where maintenance-related issues were flagged and tackled immediately. 

Minor issues, like complaints about food served cold or late delivery of medicines, were handled by her subordinates, while more serious complaints, “like this case”, were referred directly to her, said the witness. 

That was what happened on September 21 when a senior carer called her.

Missing money

The caller informed her that one of their residents was claiming that €20,000 in cash had gone missing from her room. 

When the general manager approached the resident she found a “shocked and very worried” woman who explained that she used to keep the cash as a reserve in case she was unable to draw money from the bank. 

She had always carried that cash from place to place, even while spending two years at a hotel before moving to the nursing home, the elderly victim had explained. 

Besides the cash, a watch she had gifted to her husband on their wedding day, had also disappeared. 

The resident was “very, very worried” especially about that watch which had great monetary and also sentimental value. 

Yet, at the time, the elderly lady did not wish to report the matter to the police, explained the manager. 

The alleged victim had showed her a bag inside which she used to keep her valuables and cash, explaining that she did not check on them daily. 

However, she rarely left her room. 

The woman never lunched or dined with other residents at the home and spent most of her time in her room, except for an occasional stroll in the gardens and her weekly outing on Tuesdays.

The manager explained that every Tuesday the resident would spend some four or five hours away from the care home while visiting a hotel, where she previously resided, for a coffee or so, before heading back to her room. 

That particular Tuesday, during her outing, the woman had gone to an ATM to withdraw some cash but did not manage. 

So when she returned to the home, she went for her cash reserve only to find that it was not there. 

She panicked and kept searching, not speaking out immediately. 

When she finally confided in her carer, who in turn informed the general manager, she was offered help to look for the money and watch inside her room.

“But she was convinced. She said that she knew where she had put them,” said the manager. 

Caught on CCTV

Right outside the victim’s room was a CCTV camera.

So the manager directed one of her maintenance personnel to download footage covering that last Tuesday and other previous Tuesdays, to check who entered the resident’s room during her absence. 

That footage revealed that on September 12, the accused had entered the room some 10 minutes after its occupant had left for her weekly outing. 

“She went out at 8.50am,” explained the manager, adding that the accused spent around five minutes inside the room.

The witness presented that footage, saved on a pen drive, in court. 

At the time, the matter was logged into the home’s records under “incident reports”.

But since the alleged victim did not want to take action, the police were not informed.

However, the following month, the son and daughter of another one of their residents went to the general manager. 

Family expose manager

“We have something to tell you. We’ve found out who is taking the things,” they said, presenting her with footage from a CCTV camera they had installed inside their mother’s room. 

They had done so with the permission of management and had also stuck a warning sign on their mother’s door. 

Their mother had long been complaining about valuables disappearing from her room.

“Elderly people tend to misplace things, such as money… We help them look for them,” said the manager. 

But, on October 25, she was shown footage on the mobile phone of the alleged victim’s son wherein she clearly identified her assistant, the accused, opening the resident’s drawers and lifting items from that room. 

The very next day, a police report was lodged, kickstarting investigations that uncovered the series of thefts related to three residents living in separate single rooms. 

Asked about the health conditions of the alleged victims, the manager replied, “those three are mentally sound. They know what they’re saying.” 

The case, presided over by Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo, continues. 

AG lawyer Brandon Bonnici and Inspectors Joseph Mercieca, Clayton Camilleri and Joseph Mallia are prosecuting.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel. 

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