Sep 27, 2021

Aged care resident accused of pushing 89-year-old fellow resident found not guilty of manslaughter

Mario Amato not guilty of manslaughter
Credit: ABC News / Facebook

Former aged care resident, Mario Amato – the 61-year-old man accused of manslaughter following the death of fellow resident, 89-year-old Sheila Capper, in a Canberra nursing home – has been found not guilty in the ACT Supreme Court and has walked free, the ABC has reported.

Mr Amato was accused of ‘pushing’ Ms Capper. Video footage taken inside the Canberra aged care home was aired in court during the trial, and showed Capper being propelled through the doorway of the laundry and onto the floor. 

“He pushed me, he pushed me,” she allegedly said afterwards, according to staff who came to help her.

Sadly, Capper died in hospital three weeks later from complications associated with the broken hip she sustained from the incident. But before she passed away, she accused fellow resident, Amato, of pushing her over, the ACT Supreme Court heard earlier this month, where Amato pleaded not guilty at the hearing, according to reports by the ABC

Prosecutor Rebecca Christensen told the court that when staff came to Capper’s aid, she told them, “He did it, that man,” and gestured towards Mr Amato, according to the ABC report.

Prior to the incident, Amato and Capper were seen trying to enter the door code to get into the laundry. The court heard Capper was entering the laundry to iron a blouse.

A few moments after they entered the laundry, Capper can be seen on the video falling into the hallway, although how she was propelled in that direction can not be determined from the video.

Police intercepted phone calls from Amato, including calls in which he denied pushing her. 

However, he also admitted he was worried about getting Capper out of the laundry and admitted to pushing the door closed.

Amato’s lawyer, Jon White, said Capper was suffering from dementia, leukaemia, glaucoma and advanced pancreatic cancer, and that another important element in the case was Ms Capper’s cause of death, which was blamed on an infection.

“Clearly Ms Capper didn’t die of a broken hip,” White stated.

“We now know the source of the infection was most likely pancreatic cancer.”

White added, “The court cannot rule out the cause of death was an infection caused by the cancer which caused other complications.”

However, Ms Christensen raised the fact that none of the 89-year-old’s medical conditions, including her dementia, were at end-of-life stage.

“Ultimately this is a case where a picture paints a thousand words, or a video in this case,” she said.

“There’s clearly a push that causes her to fall into the hallway, and then Your Honour has in Ms Capper’s own words what happened.”

However,  Justice Michael Elkaim declared, “The possibilities for the cause of death are varied, the unknowns are too numerous and the suppositions in favour of a link to the fall are too tenuous.”

Justice Elkaim added, “It simply cannot be found that the fall was a substantial or significant cause of death.”

The Justice dismissed the manslaughter charge and also a secondary charge of causing grievous bodily harm, and sided with Mr Amato’s lawyer, agreeing that Ms Capper’s account was unreliable after claiming Amato had pushed her.

“After the fall, the deceased was in a very confusing situation,” Justice Elkaim said.

“She already had cognitive deficits and an impaired short-term memory.”

Ms Capper’s devastated family released a statement shortly after the judge’s verdict expressing their sadness.

“Regardless of the decision in this matter … we thank the DPP and the AFP Case Officer Dan Vickers, in particular, for trying their best to see that justice was done for mum,” the family shared.

“We hope that nothing like this ever happens to anyone else who is in the care of an Aged Care provider.”

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