Former carer jailed for five years for 'shocking' attack on elderly resident

A former carer at an old people's residence has been jailed for five years after he was found guilty of punching an elderly man who was under his care

A former carer at an old people's residence has been jailed for five years after he was found guilty of punching an elderly man who was under his care, causing him serious injuries. 

Charlton Spiteri was accused of having, in August 2018, grievously injured Emmanuel Axiak, a 78-year-old resident at the St Vincent De Paul residence, without the intent to kill him.

He was also charged with attacking Axiak to injure or bother him, and for causing the elderly resident who was under his care to suffer physical or mental distress.

Axiak passed away in October 2018 - two and a half months after the incident - from severe pneumonia.

Testifying in court, inspector Shawn Pawney said that on 5 August 2018, Axiaq had been admitted to Mater Dei's emergency ward suffering from injuries to his face. Axiaq had, in the presence of his children, identified Spiteri as the person who caused his injuries. Axiaq, who at that point had been driven to tears, said Spiteri had punched him.

The attendant doctor at the hospital had determined his injuries - which had led to facial bruising and two black eyes - were grievous in nature.

Spiteri, who had been employed as a carer at St Vincent De Paul since 2015, had told the police that Axiaq's injuries could have been caused when he had quickly intervened to prevent the elderly man from sliding off his bed, in the process having accidentally hit him. Axiaq, Spiteri said, might also have hit the bed's side railing.

Testifying in court, charge nurse Noel Sharples said Axiaq was typically restless and had often tried to get out of bed on his own. His testimony was contradicted by Raphael Ronayne, a nursing aid, who said the incident was the first time Axiaq had tried to get out of bed alone.

Ronayne also said that the side railing's of Axiaq's bed had not been lowered, with the court having underlined the importance of this declaration.

Rita Axiaq, the victim's wife, told the court that on going to the hospital after having been informed Axiaq had been admitted, she noticed her husband had large lumps and bruising on his face extending down to his neck.

On asking what had happened, Axiaq made a gesture to indicate he had been punched in the face. The elderly man also made the same gesture to indicate he was punched when asked what happened to him by Jesmond Axiaq, one of this sons.

Pierre Axiaq, another of the victim's children, said it was evident to him from the injuries somebody had beaten his father. Pierre Axiaq later went to St Vincent de Paul and confronted Spiteri, with the carer telling him that he might have accidentally hit his father as he was propping him back up in his bed.

Importantly, another resident at the home, Toni Sant, who had been present in the nursing home hall where the incident happened, confirmed that he had seen Spiteri hit Axiaq, saying the carer had punched the elderly man four times in the ear.

Sant said that he had told Spiteri to stop hitting Axiaq.

The court noted that, disconcertingly, Sant had said that he too had once been hit, on his back, by Spiteri.

On assessing Sant's testimony, the court deemed it to be credible and accurate.

Moreover, doctor Mario Scerri, testifying, said the injuries suffered by Axiaq were compatible with those which would be sustained after being punched.

The court also considered that, even if Axiaq had hit his bed's side railing, he would have to have hit it more than once to suffer the injuries he did.

In view of these facts and others, the court deemed Spiteri's explanation of what happened as not being credible.

The court heard how, following the incident, Spiteri had been suspended from his duties.

Regarding the nature of Axiaq's injuries, doctors Sara Debattista and Mario Scerri, testifying in court, confirmed that the victim had been grievously injured.

In view of this, the court said it could not agree with Spiteri's claims that Axiaq's injuries could have been caused accidentally.

The testimony of Debattista and Scerri, the court said, left no doubt that Spiteri had voluntarily caused grievous injuries to Axiaq.

In light of this, the court found Spiteri guilty of all the charges brought against him.

The court - highlighting that Spiteri's actions were "shocking, inhumane, cruel and such that they trample on human dignity" - sentenced the accused to five years in prison.

He was also ordered to pay €269.90 in court fees.

Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech presided over the case.

Inspector Shawn Pawney prosecuted