MURDERER: Former nurse Megan Jean Haines killed two residents at a Ballina nursing home.
MURDERER: Former nurse Megan Jean Haines killed two residents at a Ballina nursing home. Contributed

Killer nurse stole our grandmother and our happiness

UPDATE: A daughter has told a court she misses her "funny, potty-mouth, story-telling Broncos supporter" mum as she described how the woman's murder had devastated her family.

Janet Parkinson relayed her mum's final minutes as she rushed to hospital and stood at her bedside yelling 'wake up mummy, wake up'.  

One of Marie Darragh's grandchildren told Sydney Supreme Court the first time she finally managed to bring herself to visit her grandmother's gravesite, she slept the night at the cemetery.  

Amid all the heartbreak, she said her once close-knit family had been torn apart.  

Megan Jean Haines, who faced a sentencing hearing on Tuesday, was found guilty last month of injecting St Andrew's Village nursing home residents Marie Darragh, 82, and Isabella Spencer, 77, with fatal insulin overdoses.

Both women had made complaints against the nurse the day before they were murdered.  

Marie Darragh was murdered in her nursing home bed in 2014.
Marie Darragh was murdered in her nursing home bed in 2014. Contributed

Crown Prosecutor Brendan Campbell has called for the former St Andrew's Ballina aged care centre nurse to face life in jail.  

Justice Peter Garling said the women were particularly vulnerable, not just because they were asleep when Haines injected them, but due to their age and infirmity.  

"They certainly couldn't get up and get away; they couldn't physically fight off the offender," he said.  

"One of the two had a left-sided stroke and had no use of the left side of their body.  

"Both of them needed help to get out of bed.  

"I think vulnerability extends further than just being asleep."  

Six victim impact statements were read out to the court.  

Outside Sydney Supreme Court on the trial's third day are (from left) Marie Darragh's granddaughter Shannon Parkinson and daughters Janet Parkinson and Charli Darragh.
Outside Sydney Supreme Court on the trial's third day are (from left) Marie Darragh's granddaughter Shannon Parkinson and daughters Janet Parkinson and Charli Darragh. Chris Calcino

Ms Darragh's oldest daughter Janet Parkinson appeared in Sydney Supreme Court via video-link from Lismore to deliver her message.  

"When I was six weeks old it was my mum and I," she said.  

"Mum worked as a barmaid and back in the day it was hard enough for a woman, let alone a single mum.   "But she gave me everything I needed."  

Janet recalled receiving a phone call from the nursing home in May 2014, telling her Ms Darragh was unresponsive and had suffered a massive stroke.  

"Ten minutes later I was standing beside her bed, yelling at her to 'wake up mummy, wake up'," she said.  

She said her own health had deteriorated due to the grief and stress surrounding her mother's murder and the exhausting legal process that followed.  

"This funny, potty-mouth, story-telling Broncos supporter was no longer in my life," Janet said.  

"I lost my chance and my duty to take care of the rest of my mum's life the way she took care of me."  

Isabella Spencer slept while nurse Megan Jean Haines administered her with a fatal dose of insulin.
Isabella Spencer slept while nurse Megan Jean Haines administered her with a fatal dose of insulin. Contributed

Ms Spencer's brother Donald Spencer outlined a long list of medical issues he attributed to his sister's killing, including enduring narcolepsy which had forced him to surrender his driver's licence.  

"I find if I concentrate on the good memories of Isabella it helps me cope," his statement read.  

"I have lost the pleasure of the simple things in life.  

"I would love to have just one night's decent sleep. I have not had this since Isabella's death."  

Haines was the only registered nurse on duty the night she murdered the two women, just hours after they had made complaints about her care.  

A jury found Haines, already on probation after receiving a series of complaints from previous nursing jobs, entered the women's rooms while they slept and injected them with insulin.  

Neither woman had diabetes.  

A man who knew Haines years earlier testified she had once boasted, while watching a CSI-type television show, she knew how to kill someone with insulin without being detected.  

Donald Spencer with a photo of his late sister, Isabella.
Donald Spencer with a photo of his late sister, Isabella. Graham Broadhead

Three of Ms Darragh's granddaughters also made statements alluding to the family breakdown that followed their matriarch's murder.  

Haines sat silently as she heard the traumatic stories.  

Sasha Parkinson told the court her career as a beauty therapist had been severely affected since she was tasked with applying make-up to her grandmother's face before the funeral.  

She recalled her grandmother's love of her homemade macaroni and cheese, and painting Ms Darragh's nails while she watched The Bold and The Beautiful.

"I would also call her most Saturdays for her tips, as she was an avid horse punter and we mostly won," the statement read.  

Sasha said the first time she finally managed to bring herself to visit her grandmother's gravesite, she slept the night at the cemetery.  

"No amount of money, no amount of interviews, no amount of magazine articles will ever make this right," she said. 

Charli Darragh at the grave site of her mother, Marie Darragh.
Charli Darragh at the grave site of her mother, Marie Darragh.

Shannon Parkinson remembered sneaking meat pies into St Andrew's for her grandmother, who also had "a sweet tooth for sweets, chocolates, lollies and handsome men".  

She remembered holding her grandmother "as she fought, kicked, moaned and grumbled and struggled to take her last desperate grasp at life".  

"Nanny died in my arms," she said.  

"A part of me died that day as I rocked my nanny to her death."   Shannon noted her once close family was now shattered and dysfunctional.  

It was a sentiment Dominique Riccard echoed.  

She said there would be no more family Christmases to look forward to and no more Easter egg hunts due to her family's estrangement.  

"My childhood memories are now riddled with pain and sadness instead of the smiles and happiness that were there before," she said.

"I'm 33 years old and far too young to be filled with so much pain."  

Ms Riccard also read her father Geoff Darragh's victim impact statement, which eulogised his mother as a caring woman who "could turn baked beans into a banquet".  

He said he could not afford to miss work to attend court proceedings, and his absence had driven a wedge into his family.  

"I haven't even begun to grieve," he wrote.  

"Hell, I have only been to mums grave once to promise that we would get her, Megan Haines."  

Justice Garling adjourned the matter and will hand down his sentence on Friday, December 16. 

ARM NEWSDESK

7.20AM: Killer nurse to be sentenced for Ballina murders

A WOMAN who murdered two people in a Ballina nursing home will be sentenced today for her crimes.

Megan Jean Haines, a former St Andrew's aged care centre registered nurse, was found guilty last month of murdering Marie Darragh, 82, and Isabella Spencer, 77, in May 2014.

It took only four hours for the Sydney Supreme Court jury to arrive at its guilty verdict after a fortnight-long trial in November.

The two women had filed complaints about Haines' care.

The jury found Haines, who was already on probation after receiving a slew of complaints from previous jobs, entered the women's rooms while they slept and injected them with insulin.

AAP has this morning reported that family members of the victims are expected to watch Wednesday's sentencing hearing via video link from Lismore.

Justice Peter Garling will sentence Haines in Sydney.

- ARM NEWSDESK



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