16 September 2021

Nursing home death allegedly caused when 89-year-old 'propelled' through doorway

| Albert McKnight
Mario Amato

Mario Amato, 61, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of manslaughter. Photo: Facebook.

A resident of a Canberra nursing home has been accused of pushing an elderly woman out of a laundry at their facility, causing her to fall and fracture her hip. The incident allegedly resulted in her death.

Mario Amato, 61, pleaded not guilty to a charge of manslaughter over the death of 89-year-old Sheila Marie Capper when his judge-alone trial began in the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday (15 September).

The court heard the two lived at the Southern Cross aged care facility in Campbell in late 2018.

Ms Capper had been at the home for some years. She suffered from conditions like dementia and leukaemia, while the much-younger Mr Amato, then 58, was also a resident due to an incident related to his diabetes. He needed assistance to administer his medication.

Crown prosecutor Rebecca Christensen said the two were in a hallway trying to enter the laundry room at about 3:30 pm on 13 November 2018, before Mr Amato figured out the code needed to open the door and went inside, followed by Ms Capper.

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She alleged that “moments later”, Ms Capper was “propelled” back through the laundry door and fell to the floor in the hallway.

She was taken to hospital with a fractured hip and later died.

Mario Amato on Wednesday

Mario Amato, 61, approaches the ACT Courts on Wednesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

“In short, the Crown says the accused, Mario Amato, pushed Ms Capper. He directly caused her to fall and fracture her hip,” Ms Christensen alleged.

“This was an act that was dangerous and this was an act that caused Ms Capper’s untimely death.”

Closed-circuit television footage (CCTV) screened to the court captured her fall into the hallway, but not the alleged push inside the laundry, before staff arrived to find her lying on the ground.

Also, the footage showed that when Mr Amato later came out of the laundry, he walked around her as he walked away.

Ms Christensen said she expected a staff member from the home who went to help Ms Capper would tell the court Ms Capper told her: “He pushed me, he pushed me.”

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She said she expected an expert would tell the court it was unlikely she would have died without the fracture to her hip and alleged the injury to Ms Capper’s hip was the substantial cause of her death.

But Mr Amato’s barrister Jon White SC said at the time of the alleged incident, Ms Capper had a number of co-morbidities, including advanced pancreatic cancer.

He said one possible cause of her death was sepsis and it could be that sepsis was related to the cancer.

Mr White also said not all contacts between people would be considered assaults, and even if there was a technical assault in this case, that was not enough to make out the charge of manslaughter, as for that the act had to be inherently dangerous.

Mr Amato also pleaded not guilty to an alternative charge of causing grievous bodily harm.

The trial runs before Justice Michael Elkaim.

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