Belfast Telegraph

Confused OAP's drowned body was found two months after he walked out of care home

By Chris Kilpatrick

A pensioner suffering from dementia bypassed security measures at his nursing home prior to falling and drowning at a nearby building site.

Harry Warwick was reported missing from Abingdon Manor Care Home on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast on December 19, 2012.

His body was discovered at a building site a quarter-of-a-mile away more than two months later.

A huge search operation had been launched involving police, Mr Warwick's family and friends, and hundreds of volunteers.

An inquest into the 78-year-old's death was yesterday told that keypads were installed at the units within the care home where Mr Warwick lived.

Residents were not given the numbers to prevent them leaving the facility unsupervised.

However, on the day Mr Warwick – who was often said to be in a confused state – went missing, he followed a visitor to Abingdon Manor out of his unit.

During evidence from nursing staff yesterday, some of Mr Warwick's relatives were asked to refrain from shouting out.

His family claimed he had made a previous attempt to get out after getting hold of the keypad number.

He was last seen walking along the Crumlin Road, away from the nursing home, at around 6.30pm on the day he went missing.

Care staff said they had asked Mr Warwick why he was wearing his coat earlier that day, but added it was not unusual for him to do so.

Because he was fully dressed, a man visiting his mother in the same unit said he believed Mr Warwick to be another guest as both men left together.

Police said despite intensive inquiries in the area, including a trawl of CCTV, they were unable to track Mr Warwick's movements after December 19.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson was told Mr Warwick knew north Belfast well and worked for many years in the Shankill area, where he was fondly referred to by some as "Harry the mechanic".

However, in a statement to the inquest his daughter Elaine Harty said that in the latter stages of his life Mr Warwick would often be deeply confused.

Friends said his dementia had reached a point where he would at times forget his name.

It was due to concerns for his safety that Mr Warwick's family admitted him to Abingdon in May 2011. He had previously been living in low-supervision accommodation. Ms Harty said he "wasn't happy going to the home".

"On one occasion he got the keycode and let himself out," she said. "My father was angry over being placed at the home."

Rebecca Goodwin, a staff nurse at Abingdon, said staff searched for Mr Warwick when it was discovered he was not in his room on the evening of December 19.

Ms Goodwin contacted people who were visitors earlier that day. One said a man matching Mr Warwick's description had followed him off the premises.

Ms Goodwin said she was aware of one occasion in the past when Mr Warwick had tried to leave unsupervised. The coroner was told that to help combat residents absconding, all those wishing to leave had to be signed out and in.

Staff last saw Mr Warwick at around 6pm. He was reported missing about 40 minutes later.

Mr Warwick's body was discovered face up in a ditch at a building site on the Old Mill Valley Road by contractors on February 25, 2013.

A post-mortem recorded his cause of death as drowning in the shallow water in which he was discovered.

Officers from the PSNI who inspected the site said they believed there were a number of places through which access could have been gained.

Ms Anderson said she was satisfied Mr Warwick had died as a result of drowning, and offered her condolences to his family.

Mr Warwick's family did not wish to comment afterwards.

BACKGROUND

Harry Warwick was last seen on Wednesday, December 19, 2012. His disappearance sparked a huge search operation in north Belfast involving hundreds of volunteers. Police conducted house-to-house enquiries in north Belfast and teams also scoured country parks and quarries. His body was discovered more than two months later.

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