The brother of an immobile and vulnerable woman who died in “horrific and filthy conditions” has been jailed for three years for gross negligence manslaughter.
Philip Burdett, 59, was “utterly out of his depth” when the health of his sister, Julie Burdett, 61, deteriorated in January 2019 after many years of her suffering from numerous chronic and complex medical conditions.
Ms Burdett, described as “friendly, articulate and clever”, was found by paramedics on the floor of her bedroom in Oakside Crescent, Leicester, covered in her own faeces, urine and vomit.
She weighed just 4st 10lb at the time of her death and had suffered the most extensive pressure sores an expert with more than 40 years of experience in nursing had ever seen, Leicester Crown Court heard.
Her father Ralph Burdett, 93, was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted of the lesser offence of allowing the death of a vulnerable adult.
The retired electrician walked free from court on Thursday after he was handed a two-year custodial term, suspended for the same period.
Prosecutors alleged the defendants, described in court as “extreme” hoarders, left the vulnerable woman to suffer “dreadful” injuries “surrounded by filth and squalor” in a bedroom for about two weeks in January 2019, before she died of extreme ulcerations.
Tissue on her back and hip had died died to lack of blood supply and her wounds became infected with the superbug MRSA before deadly sepsis set in.
Julie was described in court as intelligent and articulate but she had developed a disease similar to multiple sclerosis by 1998, leaving her needing a wheelchair when she left the house.
Her father told the trial he had no idea his daughter was dying and did not seek outside help because he “didn’t want to go against her wishes”.
The trial heard the family, described as “extreme hoarders”, became increasingly reclusive following the death of Ms Burdett’s mother, Grace, in 2005.
Philip Burdett became Julie’s carer but had his own health difficulties as he suffers from agoraphobia and a recurrent depressive disorder.
The family had an aversion to hospitals following Grace’s “distressing” death and Ms Burdett made her brother and father promise they would not let anyone else care for her or that she be admitted to hospital.
The judge said, despite those wishes, it was open to the defendants to seek medical attention and care in the community.
He said: “Misguided though it was, I accept that you convinced yourselves that it was in Julie’s best interests to remain at home and you buried your heads in the sand.
“I am satisfied that you became overwhelmed by the seriousness of Julie’s ill-health and that instead of discharging your duties to her you irrationally but genuinely clung on to the unrealistic hope that she would somehow pull through.
“You plainly intended her no harm but you were in denial.”
He added this was “not a case of callous disregard” and there was “abundant evidence” both defendants loved Ms Burdett very much.
Describing Philip Burdett as being “utterly out of his depth” in January 2019, he told him: “I accept that you were ill-equipped to deal with your sister’s complex care needs.”
However, he noted an aggravating feature of the case was that he still took no steps to provide proper care or seek medical assistance as his sister deteriorated and drifted in and out of consciousness.
He told Ralph Burdett: “I am sure you were aware of the risk of Julie’s death and foresaw the circumstances in which her death occurred.
“Despite that you failed to take the steps that you could reasonably have been expected to have taken to protect Julie’s life. Most obviously, you did not call for the help that you so obviously needed.”
Additional reporting by Press Association