Bangor dementia suffered passed away before court case – sub heading

David and Elizabeth McKenzie

Widow’s anger over prosecution bid on ill husband

By Julie Waters 

A HEARTBROKEN widow is calling for a public apology after a criminal prosecution against her late husband was pursued despite his dementia diagnosis. 

Elizabeth McKenzie has criticised the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for ‘sullying a man’s name when they knew he wasn’t well’. 

Mrs McKenzie’s late husband David was 79 years of age when he passed away on December 30 last year, just days before he was expected to appear in court.

The devoted husband and father had been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm following an incident at the family home in Bangor on June 3 last year. He was also charged with possessing an offensive weapon with intent.

The criminal case against Mr McKenzie had been scheduled to be contested on January 9, despite him spending six months in hospital, firstly the Ulster in Dundonald, then the dementia unit in Downpatrick.

Mr McKenzie’s funeral was held on Saturday, January 6 and the charge was later withdrawn by the PPS. 

The PPS has defended its decision to pursue the prosecution saying the ‘public interest was balanced in favour of prosecution, given the very serious nature of the alleged assault’.

Speaking on behalf of the PSNI, Ards and North Down District Commander, Superintendent Johnston McDowell, said he was ‘deeply sorry’ to learn of Mr McKenzie’s passing and explained that police responded to a report of an assault and the PPS had directed prosecution.

However, Mr McKenzie’s widow has criticised the decision to prosecute her husband in light of his dementia diagnosis. “They knew he was ill, why would they take a court case against him,” she said. “If somebody is ill you don’t take them to court.”

“I would like them to apologise to me and say they were wrong.”

Defending her husband’s reputation, Mrs McKenzie said he he was a gentle man, but he had Lewy Body dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia with Lewy bodies is a type of progressive dementia that leads to a decline in thinking, reasoning and independent function. 

Mrs McKenzie said that in the months leading up to the incident she had noticed changes in her husband’s behaviour at times. She said he attended with his GP on two separate occasions and was due to have a scan.

She said there had been an incident at their home which led to one of her children calling the police for assistance. 

She said her husband was taken away by police and ‘locked up overnight’ but later returned to the family home the following day. 

A couple of days later Mrs McKenzie said the police were again called to her home and the officers took him to the Ulster Hospital where he was admitted for seven weeks.

Mrs McKenzie explained that he was then transferred to the dementia unit at Downpatrick.

“He was taken to Downpatrick dementia hospital and they were the ones who got him the scan and it was definitely Lewy Body dementia,” she said.

“It is a disease and you never get better, it would have left him bed-ridden, he wouldn’t be able to eat or drink.”

After six months in hospital Mr McKenzie’s family were looking forward to welcoming him home in the middle of December. However, on December 18 he suffered a brain haemorrhage and passed away.

She said: “We were all delighted that we were getting him home, he was more like himself on the medication.

“The nurses loved him, they said he was a gentleman. One of the nurses said she loved looking after him as he was a really nice person.

“They were only letting him home for two weeks to see if I could cope and if anything happened then we would have to think about placing him in a care home.”

Mrs McKenzie said she was ’shocked’ when a friend told her that the details of her husband’s pending court case had been reported in December.

She said: “I was shocked, I nearly died, what would people think of him?” 

Mrs McKenzie said her husband had been a retired tanker driver who enjoyed keeping himself fit and active.

“When we used to go on holiday he would have run the length of the beach and back again. He would have went out to the deep water and swam the length of the beach. He would have walked the Mournes, he was a fit man.”

She said her husband’s health decline and the criminal prosecution had been a stressful experience for her and her family.

She said: “He went to hospital on June 6 and he never came home again. I feel very let down, I feel they gave him a bad name.”