Daughter’s anguish over nursing home murder

Marie Darragh and her daughter Charli Darragh at St Andrews nursing home in Ballina. Supplied picture.
Marie Darragh and her daughter Charli Darragh at St Andrews nursing home in Ballina. Supplied picture.

IF CHARLI Darragh had been able to visit St Andrews Nursing Home at Ballina only 24 hours earlier than planned, she is certain her mother would be alive today.

Instead, Marie Darragh, 82, died unexpectedly at the nursing home on May 10, along with fellow resident Isobella Spencer, 77, triggering a police investigation into what officers are now saying they believe is a double homicide.

Ms Darragh said she was to have picked her mother up on Mother's Day, May 11, and take her back to the Gold Coast to live with her.

"I just wanted mum to spend her last years at home here with me," she said.

"She was really excited about moving.

"I'm shattered because if I had gone a day earlier to get her, we wouldn't be having this conversation, and mum would still be alive."

Only hours before she was found dead in her bed, Ms Darragh said she had phoned her mum, who was an avid Brisbane Broncos fan, about the football.

"She was in great spirits and she seemed fine," Ms Darragh said.

The next morning when Ms Darragh phoned her mum, her sister answered, and she knew something was wrong.

"She just told me to hurry up and get down here because mum had had a stroke," she said.

Ms Darragh immediately hit the highway and when she got to Ballina she raced through the nursing home to her mother's room.

"I didn't even know that mum was dead because I fell down beside her bed and cuddled her and kissed her and held her and told her I was there," she said.

"I said to Wendy, the head of nursing who was with me, 'she's cold, she needs a blanket' and that's when Wendy told me she was dead.

"I was sobbing; I just couldn't believe it, that she was gone."

The sinister reality of what had happened was revealed when a detective came into the room and leant down where Ms Darragh was and quietly asked her to leave because it was a crime scene.

Ms Darragh said her mother had enjoyed her two-and-a-half-years living at St Andrews Nursing Home.

"She loved it, she really did love it at St Andrews. She had lots of friends there."

Only justice will honour her mother's memory, Ms Darragh said.


Fantastic mother fondly remembered

BORN on September 7, 1931, in Ewing St, Lismore, to Charlie and Annie Matterson, Marie Darragh lived most of her life in the Northern Rivers region.

Not long after Marie was born, her daughter Charli said the family moved to a home on Casino St at South Lismore.

"That's where she lived until she married my father Darcy," she said.

Once married, Mrs and Mrs Darragh moved from South Lismore to Goonellabah.

"They moved when she was pregnant with me and they built a home in Goonellabah," Ms Darragh said.

The family lived at Goonellabah and ran Darragh Removals Holiday Coast Removals and High Class Furniture Removals for 25 years until Charli was 15, and they moved to Brisbane.

"I wanted to get into modelling and they thought there would be more opportunities in Brisbane for me."

After 10 years in the city, the family moved to Ballina 27 years ago.

Charli said her mother was a loving, caring, kind and resourceful woman, who cared for her family well.

"She was a fantastic mother who used to call a spade a spade," she said.

"When we were growing up I always remember the beautiful cooked meals she would make for breakfast and dinner."

Mrs Darragh was laid to rest on May 23, with a funeral at Ballina's St Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

Mrs Darragh is survived by her daughters Janet and Charli, son Jeff, son-in law Mike.

Topics:  editors picks nursing home murders

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