Body of care home resident is exhumed

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Police investigating the deaths of six care home residents have exhumed the body of an elderly man.

Amid tight security, the remains of 86-year-old George Fowler were removed from a grave at Surville Cemetery near St Helier in Jersey yesterday. A post mortem examination is due to be carried out on Mr Fowler.

The three-hour operation, which began just after 4am, was lit by floodlights and concealed by screens and a tent. The exhumation is part of a joint investigation by Essex Police and social services into the alleged mistreatment of residents at the Carnarvon Lodge care home in Clacton-on-Sea which has been closed since last October.

The investigation started in February last year, and is now examining six deaths, including that of Mr Fowler. The bodies of four of the people who died were cremated.

The joint owner of the home, Angela Postill, has been charged with the murder of 62-year-old Eunice Fifield. Ms Postill, 41, has also been charged with the manslaughter of 95-year-old Winifred Armstrong. Former care workers at the home, Pearl Gunfield, 41, Kirsty Gibson, 20 and Philip Perkins, 25, have been charged with the manslaughter of Mrs Armstrong. Ms Gunfield has also been charged with the murder of Mrs Fifield.

Ms Postill, from Clacton, Ms Gunfield, of Little Clacton, Ms Gibson, of Clacton and Mr Perkins, of Great Bentley, all in Essex, were remanded in custody when they appeared before Colchester magistrates yesterday. Their cases were adjourned until 18 April. A 46-year-old man, who has not been named, is on bail pending further police inquiries.

Mr Fowler was a resident at Carnarvon Lodge for six weeks before his death in July last year. At the time, his death was put down to old age and no post mortem was carried out. He had been staying with his daughter and her family at Great Horkesley, near Colchester but moved into Carnarvon Lodge after having one of his legs amputated.

Essex Police were given permission by the Jersey authorities to exhume the body of Mr Fowler, who had lived and worked in Jersey for many years. Acting Detective Superintendent Dick Madden of Essex Police said afterwards that it was a "sensitive occasion" and that the exhumation was a "dignified ceremony."

Mr Fowler's body was taken to a mortuary at Jersey General Hospital for a post mortem, the results of which would not be known for six or seven weeks, he said. Police have refused to say exactly what they are looking for but it is understood that part of their inquiry centres on allegations that some residents were force fed.