Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Roger Dean gets life in prison for nursing home fire - Sydney Morning Herald

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The story of Quakers Hill nursing home

On November 16, 2011, Roger Dean arrived at Quakers Hill nursing home for a regular shift. The following 48 hours turns into a devastating series of events that ends with the death of 11 people.

He murdered 11 people by setting fire to their nursing home while they slept in their beds.

Now aged-care nurse Roger Dean will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Justice Megan Latham delivered a life sentence to the 37-year-old for the November 2011 crime, which left the city in a state of shock. Dean made no reaction as the sentence was announced.

Accused ... Roger Dean

Life sentence: Roger Dean. Photo: Seven News

The judge described the murders as ''atrocious'' and ''greatly reprehensible'', saying "the pain and terror experienced by all of the victims must have been horrific".

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''For those who were unable to move independently and who faced the prospect of being burnt alive or suffocated by smoke, a worse fate is hard to imagine.''

Around 4.50am on November 18, 2011, Dean set fire to beds in two rooms of the Quakers Hill nursing home where he was working as the night nursing manager.

Roger Dean, seated, is given oxygen after a fire engulfed a nursing home.

Roger Dean, seated, is given oxygen after the fire engulfed the Quakers Hill nursing home. Photo: AFP

One of the rooms was empty – the other housed two residents who were asleep in their beds.

Emergency services rushed to the home to find black smoke billowing from the windows and residents in a state of panic.

Many were saved, but the failure of Dean to tell firefighters that there were two fires meant that firefighters did not became aware of the second fire until it was too late.

Deadly fire: Eleven people were killed in the blaze.

Deadly fire: Eleven people were killed in the blaze. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Five of the residents perished in the fire, while a further six died later in hospital from the injuries they sustained.

The victims were: Dorothy Wu, 85; Alma Smith, 73; Reginald Green, 87; Lola Bennett, 86; Ella Wood, 97; Urbana Alipio, 79; Caesar Galea, 82; Doris Becke, 96; Verna Webeck, 83; Dorothy Sterling, 80; and Neeltje Valkay, 90.

Standing outside as the home as ambulance officers frantically tried to save the residents, Dean did a television interview with Channel 7.

"There was a fire and I did what I could to get the residents out," he said.

"It's a bit overwhelming ... but we got a lot of people out, that's the main thing."

After Dean pleaded guilty to the murders on what was to be the first day of his murder trial in May this year, it emerged that he had lit the fires to destroy evidence that he had stolen some 230 painkilling tablets prescribed to the residents.

The night before the fire, Dean repeatedly went into the room where the home kept its addictive medications and stole 237 tablets of the narcotic painkiller Endone and one capsule of the morphine drug Kapanol. These can be bought, with a prescription, for about $85.

He became extremely fearful when nursing home managers discovered the drugs had been stolen, and called police.

The next night, after trying unsuccessfully to get into the locked room where the drug registry books were kept, Dean told two junior nurses to take an unscheduled break and then walked into the A2 wing. Using a stolen cigarette lighter, he set fire to the sheets of an empty bed.


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