The family of man who died after falling down a flight of stairs at a Mansfield care home say the owners have put them “through hell” since his death.
Dementia sufferer George Chicken, aged 76, was a temporary resident at Rose Court Lodge care home, on Sutton Road, in November 2012 when he evaded staff, accessed a fire exit and fell down a first-floor staircase. He died in hospital days later.
Now, after a four-year battle for justice from his family, the care home owner and the manager at the time have accepted liability.
But it was only after a court case brought by Mansfield District Council against the owner and the manager had got under way.
They initially denied the charges, but on Thursday - four days into the trial - Embrace All changed its plea to guilty of failing to ensure residents were not exposed to risks to health and safety.
Manager Amanda Dean also admitted failing to take reasonable care of persons affected by her work.
Mr Chicken’s family has since spoken about their four-year ordeal.
Valerie Clowes, Mr Chicken’s daughter, said: “I was more angry than anything else.
“They could have done this years ago, to go ahead and say they were guilty, they could have put us out of our misery.
“The family has suffered enough, it’s time for this to end. The impact it has had has been indescribable.”
Mr Chicken, a former electrician at Welbeck Colliery who retired at the age of 51, had lived on Manby Court, Meden Vale.
Much of his spare time was taken up with gardening and spending time with his seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
He was diagnosed with dementia in 2009, having started to show symptoms two years beforehand.
Mrs Clowes, of Church Warsop, said: “His grandchildren worshipped the ground he walked on.
“He was such a character. Everybody loved him, the care home staff said he was a gentleman.”
Mrs Clowes was contacted by Rose Court Lodge who told her that her father had a “little bit of a fall” but had been rushed to hospital with serious head injuries, including bleeding to the brain.
Despite being with him when he died two days later, Mrs Clowes, 57, says she was forced to identify him after his death and the heavy bruising around his face continues to haunt her.
She said: “They have robbed us of being able to remember our dad as he was.
“We knew there would come a time when he wouldn’t recognise us, but he should not have died in the most horrific of circumstances.
“We have not been able to grieve properly for him.
“It has just kept coming back to us with every review we’ve had to attend.
“It’s been thrown back in our faces every time, and they’ve not allowed us to come to terms with it.”
Embrace All and Amanda Dean, of Devonshire Street, Ambergate, Derbyshire, are due back in court on September 8 for sentencing.
Mrs Clowes said: “We’re not anxious about it. Whatever happens it won’t bring him back or change the circumstances.
“This has to happen, but whatever they get won’t make a difference. It might have made a difference to admit it earlier to save us all the anguish, but not now.
“In some ways it will still be a kick in the teeth, it should have happened a long time ago.”
The trial at Nottingham Crown Court had been expected to last three weeks.
On the second day the jury was sworn in and heard the opening speech by prosecutor Bernard Thorogood, who outlined the case on behalf of Mansfield District Council.
The charges against Embrace All included failing to ensure residents were not exposed to risks to their health and safety, and failing to properly risk-assess.
Amanda Dean, the manager of the care home at the time of Mr Chicken’s death, initially faced a charge of failing to take reasonable care of persons affected by her work activity.
The court was told how Mr Chicken had been admitted into respite care at Rose Court Lodge in 2012 while work was being undertaken to install a wet room at the home he shared with his wife Jean.
His family had visited no fewer than 13 care homes before deciding on Rose Court Lodge for a two-week stay.
However, on the evening of November 4, 2012, he had managed to leave his room and wander along two corridors before opening a fire door.
There was no light and no handrail and he tumbled down the concrete steps.
Nottingham Crown Court was told staff had heard him groaning.
The defence for both the company and Dean failed to provide an opening statement to the jury before it was decided they would change their pleas.
Standing on the steps of the courthouse, his daughter Valerie Clowes said: “To think all it would have taken to save my dad’s life was a £5 thumb lock for the fire door he went through, or a £20 child gate in his bedroom door.
“The word ‘sorry’ is yet to be heard.”
And Mrs Clowes said the company that runs the home also owes an apology to the staff at Rose Court Lodge.
She said: “The home not only failed us, but they failed the staff, it’s something they should never have needed to witness.
“The company put them in that position.
“Everybody involved on our behalf has put in so much hard work and have showed such empathy, they have been amazing and we can’t thank them enough.
“They’ve been working on this for four years and as a family, all we ever wanted was for those responsible to hold their hands up and say ‘sorry, it was our fault’.”