Nurse 'stole medication from elderly patients'

A registered nurse "fed her addiction" to class A drugs by stealing medication from elderly people in her care, including two she is accused of murdering, a court heard yesterday.

Rachel Baker, 44, started to abuse drugs stolen from residents at the care home she ran with her husband, Leigh Baker, in 2005, Bristol Crown Court heard. More than 5,000 units of medication prescribed to patients at Parkfields Care Home, in Butleigh, Somerset, were unaccounted for between late 2005 and mid-2006.

Baker, from Glastonbury, Somerset, would often procure prescriptions by exaggerating her patients' symptoms. Prosecutor David Fisher told the jury that by late 2006, Baker, a former manager of the home, became addicted to diamorphine – similar to heroin – as well as pethidine and diazepam.

Mr Fisher said "with that background", mother-of-one Baker allegedly murdered Francis Hay, 85, in November 2006 and Lucy Cox, 97, in January 2007. Opening the case, he said: "She fed her addiction by taking drugs which had been prescribed not to her but to residents at the home and from her husband.

The court also heard that Parkfields resident Fred Green, who died on 6 January 2006, had suffered from a severe stroke and was being treated for painful skin cancer on his scalp. Toxicology tests taken during Mr Green's post-mortem revealed that he had not been receiving the medication prescribed to him.

"On occasion she would steal drugs from residents, on other occasions she would get prescriptions for residents which they didn't require, or didn't require in such large volumes, by exaggerating or falsifying their symptoms so she could use the drugs herself."

Mr Fisher said Baker started to suffer from migraines in 1999, and was prescribed painkillers. She would give a "variety of excuses" to explain why she needed more prescriptions, including claiming that her daughter had scribbled on the prescriptions. Doctors eventually withdrew her prescription but she repeatedly refused alternative migraine medication when it was offered to her, causing her to use residents' drugs, Mr Fisher said.

Mr Fisher said between 25 July 2006 and 28 November 2006, Baker's visits to the GP suddenly stopped.

Baker has accepted she diverted drugs from eight residents, as well as her husband. She denies two counts of murder. The trial is expected to run until the end of March.