Belfast Telegraph

Margaret's nephew had voiced concerns about her hospital care. Now police are probing her death amid shocking claims of a sex assault

By Victoria O'Hara

Police officers have been called in to investigate the death of an elderly woman amid allegations she was sexually assaulted in a Belfast Hospital hours before she died.

Margaret Glendinning (83), who was being treated in the Royal Victoria Hospital, passed away on Saturday, some 48 hours after her nephew voiced major concerns about her receiving a "sub-standard" level of care.

Gordon Potsworth, from Carrickfergus, claimed at one point in hospital that his aunt had been left with no clothes on from the waist down, and had been given practically no food or water over a sustained period of time.

The family said they had been contacted at around 7.45pm on Saturday when the hospital informed them that Margaret's condition was deteriorating.

But when Mr Potsworth, along with his niece and a family friend, arrived at the hospital around 10pm, they were told that she had died.

It is understood an initial postmortem indicated Margaret had died of multiple organ failure and septicaemia, and had been diagnosed with a bug called 'ESBL'.

But yesterday events took a more shocking turn when it emerged that the police had been called in to investigate allegations of sexual assault.

A second post-mortem is due to be carried out today.

A spokeswoman for the Corner's Office confirmed it had asked the police to carry out an investigation.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "Police were made aware of the death of an 83-year old woman on Saturday April 6. Inquiries are being carried out to determine the cause of death."

The Coroner's Office is also carrying out its standard investigation, and a decision on whether or not to hold an inquest into the death will then be made.

The family told the Belfast Telegraph they have been "devastated" by the allegations of sexual assault.

"It is bad enough losing auntie Margaret without this bombshell," Mr Potsworth said.

Ms Glendinning had been recently in hospital with end-stage renal failure and heart failure.

But, according to her nephew, she had "picked up", until she fell and broke her ankle on Monday.

She was admitted to Antrim Area Hospital before being transferred to the Royal.

The following day she underwent surgery and was then taken to a high-dependency ward to recover.

Mr Potsworth (49) praised the level of care from staff in the high dependency ward. But said he began to worry when she was transferred.

"The care in high-dependency was tremendous," he said. "But sadly I have to say the treatment and the care after she was moved to a room was way below what we would have expected."

"She was transferred to a room on Thursday night ."

He said his concern grew when he needed to press a bedside buzzer and it took at least 25 minutes for someone to respond.

"She was on her own with no water, no monitors and no hand sanitiser," said Mr Potsworth.

"When I arrived, she was trying to be sick and her bottom half was naked.

"When I pushed the buzzer on the wall it took 25 minutes for a ward helper to come and tell me that the nurse was very busy."

Mr Potsworth had asked medical staff for his aunt to be moved into a fixed-bed ward close to the nurse's station.

Mr Potsworth added: "We just feel the family has been torn apart.

"This has to be investigated, but even the possibility that this has happened has just left us feeling devastated.

"We just want to know what happened, and we hope that no other family has to go through this."

A spokeswoman for the Belfast Trust said: "We would like to offer sincere condolences to the family of Margaret Glendinning. We cannot discuss any patient's treatment or care.

"A senior clinician from the trust would be happy to meet with her family to discuss any of the concerns they have."

TIMELINE

Margaret Glendinning (83) broke her ankle on Monday, March 31. She was initially treated in Antrim Area Hospital before being transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

After undergoing surgery she was taken to a high-dependency ward to recover.

Ms Glendinning had recently been diagnosed with end-stage renal failure and heart failure.

Last Thursday she was transferred to a room but her nephew subsequently raised concerns about her level of care.

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