London, UK. Sept 17th: Two Nigerian women have pleaded guilty to charges of neglect for leaving a severely autistic woman locked in a car alone while they went on a two-and-a-half hour shopping spree. Police found 58-year-old Claire McMullen, who suffers from autism, learning difficulties and does not speak, locked in a car in Chatham High Street, U.K on a hot day after concerned members of the public called emergency workers when they saw the vehicle rocking.
The woman was wearing a big coat and sweating. Beside her was a packet of Wotsits and a bottle of water the carers had left for her, but she was not even capable of opening the items. Police officers had to smash a window to free Claire McMullen because they were so concerned about her welfare. She was immediately given water and drank it thirstily before being taken to hospital by ambulance to be checked over.
Sylvia Ezeorji, 47 and Veronica Howe, 52, returned to the vehicle at about 4pm, two-and-a-half hours after they had abandoned her inside. Police were still on the scene and arrested the pair on suspicion of neglect. Both were later charged and pleaded guilty at Medway Magistrates’ Court.
Sylvia Ezeorji, 47 and Veronica Howe, 52, were both care support workers for 58-year-old Claire McMullen, who suffers from autism, learning difficulties and does not speak.
Veronica Howe, of Castle Road, Chatham, and Sylvia Ezeorji, of Porters Avenue, Dagenham, have pleaded guilty to neglect.
They were told by the court their actions showed “total disregard for a person’s life”.
Claire McMullen is deemed a very vulnerable adult, the court heard. She needs two-to-one care 24 hours a day as she is in danger of choking on food so she must be supervised at all times.
They returned to the same court for sentencing. The court heard a statement from the manager of McMullen’s care home in Crawley, who said the support workers had told him they were going shopping with her in town.
He had thought that meant they were going to Crawley or nearby, as taking a resident out of the borough would need to be authorized beforehand. The statement also said the pair knew her care-plan and had helped draw it up, so leaving her in the car showed a total disregard for the plan.
Photo: Sylvia Ezeorji and Veronica Howe
Nicholas also told magistrates that police saw McMullen repeatedly rocking herself in the car, which had tinted windows. The weather had been overcast, but very humid with the temperature around 20C.
The court was told the pair had admitted their actions fell below what is required of them and said they did go to check on her in the car, but left her there again and just forgot about the time.
Magistrates decided their sentencing powers were insufficient and sent the case to Maidstone Crown Court where the duo is still expecting their sentencing.
Autism disorder (classical ASD) is one of the most common cognitive disorders which belongs to a set of developmental disorders called autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Autism reduces the ability of an individual to socially interact and have smooth verbal and nonverbal communication. Autistic patients show repetitive behaviors and are driven towards obsessive interests.
It is hard to identify autism in children because of its varying nature of symptoms. Most scientists have held genetics and environment responsible for autism in children. To this day autism is incurable, but there are several therapies to improve specific behaviors in the patients or have proven helpful in controlling this disorder. There are several treatments for children, like medications and behavioral interventions along with other behavioral therapies. The earlier you start the intervention the better.