The daughter of a Solihull man who died 10 days after being admitted to a Birmingham nursing home has won her battle against the coroner's decision not to hold an inquest.
The family of 77-year-old Leslie Vines mounted the legal challenge after the Birmingham and Solihull coroner Aidan Cotter ruled out an inquiry into his death. Overturning Mr Cotter's decision, the High Court in London yesterday referred the case to Justice Secretary Jack Straw.
Mr Justice McCombe ordered the coroner to send a full report to Mr Straw within 21 days and said it would then be a matter for the Secretary of State to decide whether an inquest should be held.
"Here was a suspicious death occurring in a care home where substantial doubts as to the standards of care had already emerged," he said.
Previously, Mr Vines' daughter Hazel Bicknell had told a judge she was shocked by the way her father was treated and how he became "a shuffling wreck" at the Maypole Nursing Home.
She said she had witnessed in his case all the failings identified in critical reports about the home.
Mr Vines suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and died in September 2002. His death was recorded as bronchial pneumonia and neither a post-mortem examination nor an inquest was held. His body was cremated.
Mrs Bicknell argued her father was physically fit and well when he was transferred to the Maypole Nursing Home in Kings Heath for full time nursing care.
But within days, he become almost "zombie-like" after being sedated and restrained in a bucket seat, she said. Mrs Bicknell said yesterday: "I’ve never believed the home’s explanation for my father’s death.
"I know when my father was transferred from Heartlands Hospital doctors described him as being 'as strong as a 21 year old' but within 48 hours of going into the Maypole, he was reduced to a shuffling wreck.
"I believe that my father did not die from natural causes but as a result of neglect and the way he was treated at the Maypole."
She welcomed the judgment and said her family were "over the moon".
"Hopefully we will get a new inquest and we trust that the Secretary of State will make a decision quickly," she said.
Speaking on behalf of the Bicknell family, their solicitor Victoria Blankstone, from Irwin Mitchell, said: "Given the circumstances of this particular case and the facts surrounding Mr Vines' death, it is an unusual step to have to request a judicial review to get an inquest.
"This now paves the way for a formal investigation into Mr Vines' death and after five years his family is hopeful that they are one step closer to finally learning the truth about how he died at the Maypole Nursing Home."
The coroner had refused to hold inquests into 27 deaths at the home, run by Dr Jamalapuram Hari Gopal and his wife Pratury Samarajya Lakshmi, claiming there was no suggestion they were caused "deliberately or unlawfully". Both doctors were struck off by the General Medical Council in January 2006 following its own investigation.