Louie the poodle
By Denzil Lush
Denzil Lush disposes of a trouble-maker’s opportunistic schemes involving an elderly woman
Winifred (Win for short) was born in 1910 and was a long-distance lorry driver. She lived in Oxford with her partner, Alice, and their poodle bitch called Louie. Alice died in 1993. Although Win had the capacity to make a will through her solicitors the following year, her mental state progressively declined and, in 1997, the Court of Protection appointed Oxfordshire County Council’s money management team to be her receiver under the Mental Health Act. In 2000, a district nurse paid a routine visit and found Win lying in a semi-conscious state in bed with Louie, both doubly incontinent. Win was taken by ambulance to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Louie was placed in boarding kennels and, a few days later, humanely put to sleep. She was 17 and, as well as being incontinent, she was blind, toothless, disorientated – and missed her mistress immensely. Eventually, Win was discharged from hospital and placed in a care home in Bicester. The council was wary of the opportunistic intentions of some of Win’s family members; and a social worker, Amanda Clark, was appointed as her guardian with power to require her to reside at a specific place.
Early in 2001, I received several communications from a woman called Tracey, who was married to Win’s nephew. Neither of them had merited a mention in Win’s will. Each item of correspondence was in lower case, with no capitals, no punctuation, no paragraphs, appalling grammar and copious spelling mistakes. It soon became apparent that Tracey was angling towards moving Win from the Bicester care home to her own home in Carmarthenshire,170 miles away; and replacing Oxfordshire County Council as Win’s receiver and guardian. She tried to accomplish this by undermining the actions of the council and the care home with constant, carping criticism.
On 23 March 2001, Tracey sent me a fax, part of which read verbatim: “Also the last time we visted win at the manor house nursing home on the 7th of October win didn’t have here glasses. Also there was no televishon in the day room or in wins bedroom for her to watch. Also there were no curtins on the windows in the day room & it smelt of urine. Also as win is a lesbian & plays the male role she always wore trousers. On the 7th of October win wore a dress I did mention this to the nurse Adrian at the time as I was shocked to see win in a dress as I have known win for 16 years.” A hearing took place before me on 12 June 2001, attended by Tracey, Amanda Clark and a member of the council’s money management team.
Tracey claimed that Ms Clark had accused Win of having a sexual relationship with Louie the poodle. Ms Clark flatly denied this and said Tracey had deliberately construed an earlier episode – which had a perfectly innocent explanation – in the lewdest possible manner. When Win was an inpatient at the John Radcliffe Hospital, a social worker had interviewed her to assess her care needs and asked her how often she had a wash. Win said there was no need for her to wash herself – because Louie licked her. I dismissed Tracey’s complaints against the council.
But even though she was a disingenuous troublemaker, Tracey did have a valid point about the need for diversity training in care homes. Win died four months later
Denzil Lush is a retired senior judge at the Court of Protection