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‘Auntie Em’ carer wins battle for payment

A nursing assistant who looked after alleged elder abuse victim “Auntie Em” declared herself “elated” yesterday after winning a three-year court battle to get the senior's daughter to pay for her services.

Magistrate Tyrone Chin ordered Rosamund Hayward to pay $25,000 to Yvonne Dawson in unpaid fees for the 24-hour care she gave frail widow Wilhelmina Liburd during late 2006/early 2007.

“I won and I'm elated,” Ms Dawson, 43, told

The Royal Gazette. “Justice has been served but it's been a long journey. The proof was in front of the judge because he was the one that sat with this case from the beginning.

“I'm so happy right now that I can say I think the judge has done a good judgment. I think he was very neutral. He asked and made a lot of suggestions for this woman to settle out of court but she refused.”

The harrowing plight of Mrs Liburd known as “Auntie Em” to loved ones was revealed by this newspaper in September 2007, when her nephew Stephen Woodley and Ms Dawson told of the terrible conditions she was found living in at the family home in Upland Street, Devonshire.

Ms Dawson described seeing cockroaches crawling across the senior's skin and food, while environmental health officers declared the property unfit for human habitation due to clutter, dirt, roach and rodent infestation and droppings, unsanitary water, roof fungus and bed bugs.

Ms Dawson agreed to take the 95-year-old great-grandmother temporarily into her own home after a meeting with Mrs Hayward at the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC).

The nursing assistant told Mr Chin she had an oral contract with Mrs Hayward to be paid for her services, an agreement the latter denied existed.

The Magistrate made a preliminary ruling in May 2008 that a contract did exist.

Mr Chin said yesterday he had heard nothing since from the defendant or her lawyer Ray DeSilva to sway him from that finding.

Ordering Mrs Hayward to pay the $25,000 fees, plus $70 in costs, he described the case as having “taken on a life of its own” since Ms Dawson launched her legal bid in 2007.

Mr Chin said the court heard “much extraneous information” during hearings and the case dragged on because both parties were funded by legal aid, rather than paying themselves.

“The case should and could have been completed much earlier and without as much fanfare,” he said.

Administrative assistant Mrs Hayward the adopted daughter of Mrs Liburd declined to comment on the judgment.

She was told by the NOSPC in early 2007 to make improvements to the Upland Street property so Mrs Liburd who is near-blind and lost part of a leg due to gangrene could move home.

Case manager Dennika Williams warned her there was “much concern” over the senior returning to “endure both psychological and emotional abuse” and unfit living conditions. She wrote: “These concerns constitute a form of elder abuse.”

Ms Williams was called as a defence witness during the civil trial before Mr Chin, when she said Mr Woodley agreed to pay Ms Dawson for her services while Mrs Hayward applied for financial assistance.

Mrs Hayward has never been charged with any criminal offence in connection with the alleged mental abuse and physical neglect of her mother, who is now 98 and living at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital's Continuing Care Unit.

A law aimed at bringing abusers of elderly people to justice was passed in 2008 but is not retroactive.

Mother-of-two Ms Dawson, from Pembroke, said it was “disheartening” that the legislation could not help Mrs Liburd.

Yvonne Dawson, who looked after alleged elder abuse victim Auntie Em celebrates after winning a three-year court battle to get the senior's daughter to pay for her services.

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Published December 31, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 31, 2010 at 7:10 am)

‘Auntie Em’ carer wins battle for payment

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