A dedicated carer for her elderly patients – or their angel of death?
On 10 May 2014, two elderly residents at a nursing home in Ballina, Australia, were found dead in their beds.
Was it simply a tragic coincidence? Or was something – or someone – more sinister behind their deaths?
South African-born Megan Jean Haines had moved to Australia, trained to be a nurse. But it seems the mother-of-two’s career was dogged by scandal.
She was stripped of her nurse’s registration in 2008, after it emerged she’d given insulin to non-diabetic patients on two separate occasions at a medical centre in Victoria.
A year earlier, the Victoria nursing board found she’d engaged in ‘unprofessional conduct of a serious nature’ for failing to care for a patient at Box Hill Hospital.
And, that July, another complaint was made about Haines sending texts threatening to access patient information at Maroondah Hospital.
Somehow, it took four years for the authorities to substantiate that complaint.
Despite this, in 2012, Haines’ registration was reinstated by the Australia Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
At first Haines struggled to get work – her past was catching up with her, and she had strict reporting conditions attached to her registration.
But the dark-haired mum finally secured a job at St Andrews Village, a home for the elderly.
Two of the residents there were Marie Darragh, 82, and Isabella Spencer, 77.
The ladies loved getting together in the day room in the afternoon for a cup of tea and a natter. One thing they started discussing more than anything was Megan Jean Haines.
They weren’t happy with the care she was providing.
Marie told her daughter Charli she’d lifted her blankets and asked Haines to apply cream.
But, instead of helping her, Marie alleged the nurse had snapped, ‘Cover yourself up, you look disgusting.’
Appalled, Charli encouraged her mum to say something.
Isabella also wasn’t happy with Haines.
So, after confronting Haines, the women complained to the manager of the home.
Isabella alleged that when she’d asked Haines to help her to the bathroom, the nurse had told her to ‘p*ss in her pad’.
Barely a month into Haines’ new job, on 9 May 2014, Wendy Turner, Director of Care at the nursing home, told Haines that Isabella, Marie and another lady had made complaints against her.
Wendy explained that there’d be a meeting to discuss this the following Tuesday.
Haines offered different explanations about the incidents, telling her boss, ‘This has never happened to me before.’
Of course this certainly wasn’t true – Haines’ career was littered with complaints.
And, early the next day, Marie and Isabella were found dead in their beds.
Initially, it was thought both had tragically suffered heart attacks, as their deaths had been unexpected.
So, postmortems had to be done.
Shockingly, they revealed the women hadn’t died from natural causes – they’d been lethally injected with insulin.
Staff noticed insulin was missing from the medication room in Isabella and Marie’s wing. The only person who had access to the room at that point was Haines.
She’d been on her sixth night shift when the women had died.
Police were called in, and it quickly came to light that, back in 2008, Haines had been investigated for injecting insulin into patients who didn’t need it.
Protesting her innocence, Haines was arrested on two counts of murder. But detectives soon built a solid case against the nurse.
In October 2016, her trial started at the Supreme Court in Lismore.
The Crown alleged Haines knew another complaint investigation could be ‘disastrous’ for her career.
So she’d killed Isabella and Marie.
In damning evidence, the jury heard that, in 2009, Haines and a male friend had been watching a CSI-type show when Haines said she knew how to kill someone.
‘It’s easy,’ she said. ‘Yes, insulin…inject them with insulin, because the body continues to metabolise insulin so it looks like natural causes.’
Haines claimed she had no memory of the conversation.
Marie’s daughter Charli was in court, her skin crawling at being so close to the ‘evil-looking lady’. She prayed the jury would see through Haines’ lies.
And, on 3 November, Charli wept with relief as the word ‘guilty’ echoed through court.
It’s believed that Haines, concerned for her job, had crept into the women’s rooms as they slept, injected them with the insulin.
In the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Garling described Haines’ offences as ‘deliberate and calculating’.
Megan Haines was sentenced to serve a maximum of 36 years. Fitting justice for a callous angel of death.