Neighbours of wheelchair-bound woman with cerebral palsy who was left to die covered in her own waste say they hadn’t seen here for a decade before her death.
Ann-Marie Smith, 54, died on April 6 in Royal Adelaide Hospital from septic shock, multiple organ failures from severe pressure sores, and malnourishment.
A couple who live several doors down from the well-maintained house where Ms Smith was left to die in horrific conditions said they last caught sight of her outside more than a decade ago.
Another neighbour in Adelaide’s exclusive eastern suburbs said she noticed Ms Smith more recently but still at least five years ago, according to the ABC.
Most of the street’s residents have lived there long term and said Ms Smith’s parents had built the house for her 15 years ago and she was regularly visited by a carer.
What they are now realising, after a swarm of police and forensic investigators descended on the leafy street, is that the cerebral palsy sufferer had been living in squalid conditions inside for at least a year.
A decades old picture of Ann Marie Smith who tragically passed away on April 6
The well maintained house in Adelaide’s exclusive eastern suburbs where Ms Smith lived
SA Police are conducting a manslaughter investigation to determine what happened to Ms Smith and the case has been declared a major crime.
After she was found by a carer in a semi-conscious state she was rushed to Royal Adelaide Hospital on April 5 and died the following day.
A police press conference more than a month later asking for people with information about her life to contact them revealed the shocking details.
Ms Smith died from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment after she was allegedly left sitting in a cane chair and not moved to even go to the toilet.
‘Ann died in disgusting and degrading circumstances and her death was likely preventable,’ Head of SA Police’s Major Crime branch, Detective Superintendent Des Bray said.
‘It was a nice house from the outside, it was in a nice suburb but sadly Ann was living in disgusting conditions inside.’
The only visitors Ms Smith had, according to neighbours, were carers.
Bram Fynnaart said he noticed a sedan regularly parked in her driveway at 9am and he had heard there had once been live-in carers who were sacked years ago but had refused to leave.
‘They refused to move or they claimed squatters’ rights after a certain number of years and then there was a security detail out front 24 hours a day for about three or four months,’ Mr Fynnaart told the ABC.
Hectorville woman Rosa Maione has been identified as Ms Smith latest carer and has hired a criminal defence lawyer.
Her employer has sacked her for ‘serious and wilful misconduct’ but has also been fined for failing to notify the National Disability Insurance Scheme of Ms Smith’s death within 24 hours.
Integrity Care SA, the company responsible for Ms Smith’s care, took two weeks to report her death.
The NDIS Commission slapped the care provider with a $12,600 fine on Friday for breaching its obligations.
NDIS Commissioner Graeme Head said by law, Integrity Care SA could choose to pay the fine or not, however, if it chooses not to, legal action was a possibility with the maximum penalty being $262,500.
‘Reporting serious incidents to the NDIS Commission is a critical safeguarding mechanism for people with disability,’ Mr Head said.
The NDIS Commission slapped Integrity Care SA with a $12,600 fine on Friday for breaching its obligations
‘There have been clear failings in the support given to Ms Smith that warrant our thorough and careful investigation.’
Following Ms Smith’s death, a 12-member task force was established by the state government to identify gaps within the disability sector.
‘This poor woman became so isolated that it effectively looks like there was no-one else in her life other than this one carer,’ taskforce chief Dr David Caudrey said.
‘I’ve been in the business of disability and mental health for about 45 years and I haven’t heard of anything as hair-raisingly awful as the experiences that Ann Marie went through,’ he said.
Ms Smith was a client of Disability SA but transitioned over to the NDIS in 2018.
Her death has also come to the attention of the royal commission examining the care of the disabled, which has indicated it may conduct its own inquiry at the conclusion of the police and other investigations.