Patients 'turned into shadows'

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A care worker wept in court yesterday as he described how two fun-loving mentally handicapped people were turned into shadows of their former selves by the regime at their private residential homes.

Gary Moreten, who worked at the homes in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, for three years, told Kingston Crown Court, London, that one patient, Michael Smith, went down on his knees and begged not to be forced to work in the garden as he had been told to do, in all weathers.

But his pleas only enraged Gordon Rowe, who ran the homes with his wife Angela. Mr Rowe locked Mr Smith in his room for up to five days at a time, or alternatively set him "punishment" tasks as a result, Mr Moreten alleged.

Michael Smith had been a "bubbly young man, full of enthusiasm and always extremely happy and excited about life," when Mr Moreten first met him. But by the time Mr Moreten left his job four years ago "it was as though he was a different young man. He was totally wrecked," the court was told.

Another patient, Jacqui Goddard, was also "very bubbly and very funny". But she too became upset that she was not allowedon trips out. The court was told that when she began to refuse to eat as a consequence, Gordon Rowe dragged her downstairs and pushed her onto the patio.

Angela Rowe would not normally hit Miss Goddard, but shouted abuse at her, Mr Moreten claimed. "She would say, 'You're a dirty cow, spitting your food out, and you can stay out there until you're told to come in'."

Angela Rowe, 39, denies four charges of ill treating and two of neglecting patients in her care between 1983 and 1993. Two former members of staff, Desmond Tully, 33, and Lorraine Field, 42, each deny six charges of ill treatment. Gordon Rowe committed suicide in March last year.

The case continues.