ACCUSED OF MURDER: Former nurse Megan Jean Haines is accused of murdering two residents at a Ballina nursing home.
ACCUSED OF MURDER: Former nurse Megan Jean Haines is accused of murdering two residents at a Ballina nursing home. Contributed

Did she do it? Jury decides accused murderer's fate

SOMETIMES the most obvious suspect in a murder investigation is, in fact, the killer - and no last-minute Hollywood-style plot twist should be expected.

That was the message Crown prosecutor Brendan Campbell delivered to the jury as he summed up his evidence against accused double-murderer Megan Jean Haines. 

After more than two weeks of evidence, it is up to the jury to decide whether the former Ballina nursing home worker administered fatal insulin doses to elderly residents Marie Darragh and Isabella Spencer because they had made complaints against her behaviour as a nurse.

Mr Campbell said society had become used to the idea that murder cases would not be as clear-cut as they appeared - that since it would have been clear suspicion would immediately fall on Ms Haines, she would not have committed such a heinous crime.

He put the phenomenon down to the prevalence of television crime shows conditioning the public to believe there would always be a plot twist.

"But those are, of course, shows designed to keep us entertained, to keep us guessing, to keep us in suspense," he said.

"They are fictional shows, carefully scripted to surprise us at the end of 50 minutes. This is real life.

"And when you think about it, the person upon whom suspicion first falls can often, in fact, be the person responsible because it is not a carefully scripted TV show.

"In this case... the suspicion fell early on (Ms Haines); it was because of her mistake to kill both Ms Spencer and Ms Darragh.

"There is no twist. Do not look for a twist that simply does not exist."

Police allege Ms Haines injected the two women with insulin about 1am on May 10, 2014, using partially-emptied vials of the drug taken from St Andrew's nursing home's locked medication room - a room to which only she had clearance to access, as the sole registered nurse on shift that night.

They claim she then discarded two empty vials - or ampoules, as they are known - in the used sharps bin in another locked medication room in the centre's hostel, away from the Dianella ward where Ms Darragh and Ms Spencer lived.

Officers say they searched the bins as part of their murder investigation and found the vials in the bin.

Mr Campbell told the jury only one St Andrew's resident, Ted Capewell, used the specific Mixtard 30/70 insulin found in the bin - and a stocktake revealed his partially used ampoules had gone missing from the locked medication room in the Dianella ward.

But a third resident, Marjorie Patterson, had also complained against Ms Haines and was not killed.

Mr Campbell said Ms Haines visited Ms Patterson's room about 1am and gave her Panadol, despite being told not to enter the room of anyone who had filed a complaint about her without having a care worker by her side.

"Even though she was told not to attend on Ms Patterson alone, she did in fact go in there, and Ms Patterson awoke," Mr Campbell said.

"So there simply was not any opportunity in relation to Ms Patterson.

"Because Ms Patterson awoke, the accused had to write it up in the charts."

Mr Campbell said she wrote down her check-in time with Ms Patterson as 11pm, but that timeframe was impossible because that was when she was doing a handover with another staff member.

The root of Ms Patterson's complaint could also be explained as an accident, Mr Campbell surmised, since the elderly woman claimed Ms Haines had hurt her foot while helping her back to bed.

He said the other two women accused Ms Haines of deliberately failing to assist them as they had requested.

There had been a fourth complaint, he added, from a resident who was given expired medication - but that issue had already been raised on the Friday.

Twice Ms Haines told care worker Marlene Ridgeway not to check on Ms Spencer during the night because she was "fine", Mr Campbell said, and she did not administer her prescribed antibiotics at 6am the day she died.

He suggested she did so purposely so she would not have to raise the alarm about Ms Spencer's rapidly deteriorating health.

He pointed to a police-intercepted phone call between Ms Haines and a man she called "Herman" recorded on May 16 after officers raided her house and confiscated medication.

Ms Haines told Herman someone had apparently given two residents the wrong medication, a fact Mr Campbell said she could not have known because officers had only told her they were investigating two suspicious deaths - not the method of death.

Ms Haines previously claimed she assumed the residents had been given the wrong medication because the search warrant stated officers were looking for prescription drugs.

She was already on probation because of a history of complaints and would likely lose her nurse registration and her job if more complaints were made, Mr Campbell said.

"The method was one that she knew... or at least thought she knew... would not be detected," he said, referencing a witness who testified she had years earlier told him she knew how to kill someone through insulin overdose without being detected.

"If she had only injected one... it would not have been detected," Mr Campbell said.

"It would have been put down to stroke."

Defence barrister Troy Edwards was yet to deliver his closing address at print time.