Daughter killed mother at NSW aged care home in act of manslaughter

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A “loving, caring and compassionate” daughter, who gave her non-verbal, frail mother in an aged care home put a drug used to euthanise animals in her meal, has been found guilty of her manslaughter, but not her murder.

Barbara Eckersley, 69, and her husband Richard, visited her mother Dr Mary White (pictured) at Warrigal Community Village Bundanoon in the NSW Southern Highlands on 5 August 2018 and placed a small amount of temazepam and ‘green dream’, or pentobarbitone drug, in her mother’s food. The drug was from when Eckersley worked as a wildlife carer in Canberra about two decades earlier, AAP reported.

White, 92, a renowned environmental scientist and author who won the Eureka Prize for her book “After The Greening: The Browning of Australia” (1994), died two days before she was due to move out of the nursing home in Bundanoon to another facility in Coffs Harbour, which was closer to her family.

White had severe dementia, was paralysed on the right side of her body after suffering a stroke in 2016 and at the time of her death was incontinent, non-verbal and needed full-time care.

Eckersley added a small amount to her mother’s food thinking her mother would go to sleep, not that it would kill her, Eckersley’s lawyer Kieran Ginges told the jury. Eckersley argued she intended to make her comfortable and was suffering from a major depressive disorder at the time, which impaired her ability to reason.

After telling detectives she had put the drug in her mother’s meal, Eckersley was charged with murder three days after her mother’s death.

Crown prosecutor Paul Kerr had told the jury murder was usually associated with violence, mayhem, anger, revenge and jealousy. He said that did not describe Eckersley – calling her a loving, caring and compassionate daughter.

But he added taking another person’s life constitutes murder.

The jury, sitting in Goulburn, took a little more than a day to return its verdict of manslaughter, after declaring it was not an act of murder.

Eckersley broke into tears at the announcement of the verdict. She remains on bail on a $20,000 bond until the court decides on her sentence on Thursday, 20 May. The maximum penalty for manslaughter is 25 years imprisonment.