Pensioner who assaulted dementia-sufferer wife spared jail

Gordon Reeves
Gordon Reeves

AN UNDER-strain Wigan pensioner who finally snapped and assaulted his dementia-sufferer wife has been spared jail.

Gordon Reeves pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault and another assault by beating at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

The court heard how the 81-year-old from Thompson Street, Whelley, was seen grabbing spouse Veronica by the throat and on another occasion hit her on the head while visiting her at her care home. Defending, Graham Simpson said his client was of good character, had no criminal record or history of domestic violence.

He said: “The defendant prompted her to eat, get up and change her clothes on a daily basis.

“He attended to her needs until two years ago until he couldn’t cope anymore as her needs were too great.

“Dementia has completely wiped out her short-term memory and she only has around five or 10 minutes’ recollection.”

Mr Simpson added: “His actions are not out of venom or dislike but I strongly suspect frustration of the person he lived with all these years being effectively gone.

“She recognises him sometimes and when he leaves she becomes very agitated and doesn’t want him to go.”

Mr Simpson went on to say Reeves takes a one-and-a-half-hour bus journey to the home and back at least five days a week to visit his wife and it had taken an “intolerable strain” on him.

Mr Simpson added: “He sees not a great point in life since his wife had to go and live in the home.

“His existence is just going to and from the care home to visit his wife.”

Reeves was handed a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £35 costs and £15 victim surcharge.

But the hearing was told had previously been the sole carer for his wife of 64 years since her diagnosis of the degenerative illness seven years ago, until the health of both of them deteriorated. And since he was forced to put her into the Heathside care home in Leigh, he had become increasingly frustrated at effectively losing the woman he loved and was faced with financial difficulties and making a long round trip on the bus from at least five days a week.

Prosecuting Alan Bakker said Mrs Reeves was described as being a very likeable lady who was still capable of looking after herself but has to be reminded to wash, wake up, eat and basic day-to-day activities.

Another staff member described her dementia as “severe” and it caused her to be very loud and repetitive.

On February 18 this year Reeves was seen by staff member Julie Hughes pinning his wife to the wall by her throat.

In a statement she said he had a hand grabbing her clothing and another hand grasped around her neck. At first she claimed she couldn’t decide whether Mrs Reeves was hurt or if he was trying to calm her down.

However, when he noticed Mrs Hughes watching he let his wife go and walked her away. It was then Mrs Reeves said to her husband “I love you, when are you taking me home?”

Mrs Hughes reported that former car park attendant Reeves looked embarrassed by his actions and seemed to be pulling his wife forcefully.

She went to report the incident to a team leader but not long after she heard screams from Mrs Reeves. When she returned she said Reeves again had his hand on his wife’s throat.

Team leader Natalie Jones in a statement said she heard Reeves shouting out “shut up, I’ve had enough of this, I’ll shut you up. I’ve had enough of you.”

Another incident reported by another staff member Sarah Roberts took place in the conservatory.

She said she witnessed the defendant walking with his wife before he lifted his arm and hit her forcefully on the back of the head.

On this occasion Mrs Reeves didn’t respond. Mrs Roberts also stated that she saw the same incident again in the garden room where he hit his wife on the back of the head, but with less force, as he was shushing her.

On both incidences Mrs Roberts said that there was no indication whether she felt pain or not.

Then on March 21 this year witness Amanda Pennington said she was visiting her daughter in hospital and Reeves was in the next cubicle with his wife with a curtain separating them.

In a statement read by Mr Bakker, Mrs Pennington stated Reeves had constantly been telling his wife to shut up and hush and the tone of voice was agitated.

She said that through silhouettes she saw Reeves move to stand up before saying aggressively “shut up, shut your mouth”.

Mrs Pennington said she could tell Mrs Reeves was very confused.

Then a while later the witness stated she saw Reeves squeeze his wife’s cheeks and mouth together with such force that her whole face was squashed together, all the while shouting “why don’t you just shut your mouth?”

Reeves also was in financial difficulty as he was living off a pension and still supporting his wife with clothing, toiletries and such.