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"Her conduct was deliberate and calculating. It was a gross breach of trust and a flagrant abuse of her power"
"Justice Peter Garling[1]"
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Megan Jean[2] Haines is a South African-born[3] former nurse who murdered two residents at an Australian nursing home in May 9th, 2014.

Background

Haines came to the country in 2000[2] and managed to obtain permanent Australian residency.[4] After coming to Australia, she began work in nursing homes at least eight years prior to the crimes.[5] She first registered a nurse in Australia in 2001.[2] While in the Australian state of Victoria she became embroiled in three separate misconduct allegations and her nursing licence was restricted so she could only practice nursing if her employer gave six-monthly progress reports on her.[3][5] This restriction was set to last for eighteen months.[6]

In one misconduct case she injected two patients with insulin they did not require while working at Caulfield Medical Centre in Melbourne.[7] The first occasion was on January 22, 2008 in the small hours and the second was two weeks later.[2] Both women survived.[7] In each case Haines was the only nurse on duty and both women, who were from affluent backgrounds, had jewellery missing.[2]

Police raided Haines's home but the investigation faltered as no missing items were recovered, although she was charged with drug possession after cannabis was found.[2] The Nursing Board of Victoria revoked her licence that year.[7]

Other investigations included a claim she failed to care for a patient whilst nursing at Box Hill Hospital in 2007.[2] That year the Nursing Board of Victoria described that as "unprofessional conduct of a serious nature" and mandated ethics training.[7] She was also accused of shoving or slapping a patient at Caulfield Medical Centre the same year.[2] Finally, and also in 2007, an allegation was made Haines sent text messages threatening to illicitly access confidential records of patients at Maroondah Hospital.[8] This case was substantiated by the Nursing Board of Victoria after four years.[7]

In 2009 she asked the Nursing Board of Victoria to reinstate her licence but the ongoing investigation into the Maroondah Hospital prevented this.[2] In 2012 she tried again after the Nursing Board of Victoria was abolished and replaced by the federal Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, which reinstated her licence with the restrictions.[2] Her restricted licence initially hampered her ability to find work until she landed her final position, where she would commit the murders.[7]

In April 2014 she began work at the St Andrews Village nursing home in Ballina, on the North Coast of New South Wales.[3] The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency has records of Haines registered as a nurse in Ballina since February 10, 2012.[9]

She was soon the subject of further complaints. Marie Darragh, 82, told St Andrews Village boss Wendy Turner "I needed some cream applied to my fanny ... and I asked her to apply some cream to which Megan said 'cover yourself up you look disgusting', switched the light off and left." Darragh said this was the only time she had ever met Haines. Isabella Spencer, 77, said Haines would not take her to use the bathroom and to instead "piss in her pad". A third, unnamed, resident complained of rough treatment.[1]

Murders

Upon arrival for a May 9th, 2014 night shift at St Andrews Village Haines was informed of the complaints by Darragh and Spencer, and that a third complaint was pending.[5] It was her sixth shift at the facility and she was reminded of the restrictions on her licence.[2] Darragh and Spencer were found unresponsive by staff the following morning from apparent strokes.[5] Emergency services rushed to the scene but both died before help arrived.[9] They were later formally declared dead in hospital.[10] A third resident, Marjorie Patterson, 88, complained of waking during the same night to find Haines assaulting her by giving her unneeded painkillers.[4][9] Police believe she would have died had she not woken.[6] A May 13 meeting was meanwhile set up between Haines and her managers to discuss the complaints against her.[3] Routine tests showed insulin had been injected into both victims, poisoning them, and on May 15th detectives arrived at Haines's North Coast home to search it and question her.[3] Detectives from Sydney's homicide team and Richmond Local Area Command combined forces to form Strike Force Odimi to investigate the attacks on sleeping elderly women.[9] The only injuries on the deceased were needle marks on their arms.[6]

Legal process

After an investigation which included surveillance of Haines's phone calls[3] the killer was arrested by plain clothes officers in an unmarked car on July 7; she did not resist and walked willingly to the car.[11] At that time she was in Seaspray, Victoria and local police arrested her, with a court hearing at Melbourne's Magistrates Court the following day beginning the extradition process back to New South Wales.[9] Magistrate Duncan Reynolds ordered her extradited and to receive treatment for depression.[9] Joanne Findley, representing Haines, said the depression was severe and this combined with Haines never being detained before made her client vulnerable.[6]

At a hearing before the New South Wales Supreme Court in April 2015 Haines argued the circumstantial nature of the evidence against her amounted to a weak case which made her ongoing pretrial detention unlawful.[4] Justice Geoffrey Bellew disagreed, ruling the case may be circumstantial but was not weak, and ordered her to remain locked up.[4] In May 2016 she was arraigned on two counts of murder at the New South Wales Supreme Court in Sydney and committed for trial after pleading not guilty.[10]

Haines was 46 when arrested.[9] By the time her 2½-week trial in October and November 2016[5][3] was over she was 49 at the time of her December 2016 sentencing.[1]

Trial and evidence

Haines was tried before Justice Peter Garling at the New South Wales Supreme Court in Lismore.[1][10] She was represented at trial by Troy Edwards, with prosecutor Brendan Campbell representing the crown.[12]

According to Detective Superintendent Michael Willing, a Homicide Squad member, Haines was immediately suspected: "We had a good idea of what occurred and were waiting for further forensic accounts."[6]

Intercepted telephone calls formed a significant part of the evidence. In one call, dated May 16, 2014, Haines spoke of the previous days' police visit to a friend and said "They [the police] said on Saturday there was medication given to some patient or whatever. Apparently the patients were actually given wrong medication." At this point nobody had told Haines the victims were poisoned.[3] Another intercepted call showed Haines saying she wanted to permanently leave the country.[4]

On May 13th, 2014 Haines called an employment agency to discuss the meeting she had been due to attend to discuss the complaints. She asked for somebody from the agency to accompany her, saying she was at "one of these meetings before" and that "Before you know it the nurses board knows there has been a complaint about you." She said the complaints were "probably minor" and she was unsure "if I should resign from this place or see if I can make it work or whatever."[3]

The court heard of an alleged conversation with a former partner[1] whilst watching a CSI-type show in 2009.[5] She was said to have claimed it was "easy" to kill somebody and get away with it: "Inject them with insulin because the body continues to metabolise insulin so it looks like natural causes."[5] She claimed in court not to remember this but confirmed she did watch such shows and comment on them using her nursing expertise.[1]

Wendy Turner told the court details of the complaints against Haines.[1] Haines had unfettered access to locked medication stores and insulin prescribed to another patient was found missing.[4] The victims had been in apparently good health prior to their deaths.[4] However, both had advanced care directives in place indicating they were not to be resuscitated.[10]

Haines admitted in the witness box being in Darragh's room the night she died, saying noises were heard coming from the room and she attended with a colleague.[13] She told the court she "did not inject anyone".[14] She claimed she was able to make the assumption the deaths related to medication mistakes from the terms of the search warrant, which listed drugs the police were looking for in her home including temazepam, oxazepam, panadeine forte and diazepam.[15]

Campbell said the evidence showed an attempt to "eliminate the cause" of complaints that jeapordised her reinstated, restricted nursing licence but Edwards claimed had this been the case Patterson would also be dead and pointed out other staff had access to insulin.[14] Campbell however said only Haines had access at the time.[8] The court heard evidence she was subject to complaints in Victoria[8] but did not hear of the previous suspicion of poisoning and robbery.[2]

Haines was convicted on November 3rd, 2016 after just four hours of jury deliberations.[13] She appeared emotionless during the verdict,[14] and then sat impassively in court while grieving families read victim impact statements.[12]

Campbell sought a life sentence, citing the vulnerability of the deceased and the "extreme" culpability of Haines; Edwards contended this was not necessary as the planning was only "rudimentary".[12] Sentencing was delayed until December 7, 2016 after Edwards requested a psychiatric report.[13] She was sentenced to 36 years in prison with parole becoming possible in 2041, by which time she will have served 27 years.[1]

Aftermath

Haines is the subject of harassment at her home in Silverwater prison and has spent time in and out of protective custody as a result. In one July 2016 inmate request form she wrote "I fear for my safety because yesterday a girl said that I must go back to protection, that it was a dog act to kill old ladies... When I was arrested I shut down and felt like I was in a small box, but it was closed. At the moment, I'm not feeling anything." Fellow inmates regard her as a "granny killer", a form of criminal despised by other offenders. [12]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Megan Haines: Ex-nurse sentenced to 36 years in jail for murder of elderly women by insulin overdose - Lucy Carter for ABC, December 2016
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Drugs, theft allegations, insulin injections: nurse Megan Haines' history revealed by Ava Benny-Morrison and Nino Bucci writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, November 2016
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Nurse Megan Haines knew more than she had been told after Ballina nursing home deaths, court told - Ava Benny-Morrison for The Sydney Morning Herald, republished in Port News, October 2016
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Ballina nurse Megan Haines charged with murdering two nursing home patients refused bail - Karl Hoerr writing for ABC, April 2015
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Megan Haines jailed for 27 years for murdering patients at Ballina nursing home - Josh Dye for The Sydney Morning Herald, December 2016
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Nurse Megan Haines allegedly killed patients after complaints against her - Rose Powell writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, July 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Nurse Megan Haines investigated for misuse of insulin before nursing home murders by Ava Benny-Morrison and Nino Bucci writing in The Sydney Morning Herald in November 2013
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 NSW nurse Megan Jean Haines the centre of misconduct investigations before allegedly killing two residents by Ava Benny-Morrison republished in The Newcastle Herald following an initial publication in The Sydney Morning Herald, October 2016
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 Former nurse appears in court over nursing home deaths - Rebecca Lollback, "rstevens[sic]" and Marnie Johnston writing for The Northern Star, July 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Woman accused of Ballina murders to face Lismore trial - Chris Calcino writing for The Sunshine Couast Daily, May 2016
  11. Police footage of the arrest of Megan Haines, The Northern Star, July 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 In fear of her life, 'Granny killer' nurse Megan Haines taunted by Silverwater jail inmates - Stephanie Gardiner writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, republished by The Liverpool Champion, December 2016
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Ballina nursing home deaths: Megan Haines guilty of murdering two patients with fatal insulin dose, ABC, November 2016
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Former nurse found guilty of 2014 murder of two women in Ballina retirement village - The Guardian, November 2016.
  15. Complaints against accused nurse were 'worst nightmare' - Sunshine Coast Daily, October 2016

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