Paramedic overwhelmed by smell when examining malnourished woman's body

Cindy Taylor is charged with manslaughter and two charges of dishonestly claiming a pecuniary advantage.
PETER MEECHAM/FAIRFAX NZ

Cindy Taylor is charged with manslaughter and two charges of dishonestly claiming a pecuniary advantage.

A paramedic who attended the death of a malnourished, emaciated woman said he needed time to compose himself before going to her side. 

Opening the door of Ena Lai Dung's bedroom, intensive care paramedic Tristan Sames told the High Court at Auckland on Tuesday he was overwhelmed by a strong smell of urine or ammonia and began to gag. 

"(It was) one of the strongest smells if not the strongest smell I've ever smelled in this work," he said. "I needed a minute to compose myself." 

Luana Taylor, pictured in the dock in the High Court at Auckland, is charged with failing to protect a vulnerable adult.
PETER MEECHAM/FAIRFAX NZ

Luana Taylor, pictured in the dock in the High Court at Auckland, is charged with failing to protect a vulnerable adult.

Dung's daughter Cindy Taylor is charged with the 76-year-old woman's manslaughter and unlawfully using her bank card after her death to collect the woman's superannuation payments. 

Two others living with Dung at the time, Brian and Luana Taylor, are charged with failing to protect a vulnerable person. 

The three have pleaded not guilty and the trial opened on Tuesday with a warning to jurors: The evidence would be distressing. 

Brian Taylor is charged with failing to protect a vulnerable adult.
PETER MEECHAM/FAIRFAX NZ

Brian Taylor is charged with failing to protect a vulnerable adult.

Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker told the court that following an emergency call by the occupants of the Manurewa home, paramedics found Dung in an emaciated condition, weighing 29kg.

She was covered in bed sores and ulcers and was only partially clothed. 

The room was covered in flies and a plastic tarpaulin had been stretched over the bed to protect the mattress from Dung's waste. 

Sames told the court Dung was "unquestionably" dead. 

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Jurors were then shown photos of Dung's body in the state it was discovered. 

"You don't need to look at (the photos) for too long," Justice Edwin Wylie told jurors after warning them of the content. 

Paramedic Lance Hill was first to the scene and said when he arrived at the address he was told by Luana Taylor, "There's some things we need to tell you before you go down there." 

But believing he was attending a cardiac arrest, Hill said time was of the essence and continued down the hall where he said he noticed "a strong smell that got progressively stronger". 

"I opened the door and took a very quick look," he said. 

Straight away he realised Dung was dead because of her "gray-blue colour". The smell, he said, was "incredibly unpleasant". 

"Sufficient to almost bring tears to my eyes, which takes some doing." 

He described Dung as "skin and bones". Her ribs were clearly visible, "to the point you could actually count them without any trouble" and her cheekbones were prominent. 

It appeared to Hill that she had been dead some time as rigor mortis - the stiffening of a deceased - had begun to set in. 

When Hill told Cindy Taylor her mother was dead, she didn't appear to be surprised, he said. 

"She was very subdued. It was almost like she already knew." 

Walker, for the Crown, earlier said a pathologist would give evidence that Dung had died from dehydration and malnutrition. 

She had 14 fractured ribs which were thought to be older injuries because they had begun to heal themselves, the court heard. 

"The three defendants all allowed her to die what was undoubtedly a miserable death in that house," Walker said. 

"This is a case about the gross neglect of an elderly and very vulnerable woman." 

Lawyers for Luana and Brian Taylor said they weren't responsible for Dung's care and had no idea what state she was in.  

Luana Taylor is in a wheelchair and was herself being cared for by her husband, the court heard. 

The trio claim that Dung had refused to eat in the weeks before her death and that she suffered from bulimia. 

The trial is expected to last up to three weeks. 

THE 111 CALL 

Earlier jurors listened to the 111 call Luana Taylor made about 9pm on January 16, 2015. 

"I have a boarder here...I've got a feeling she's passed," Luana Taylor told call handler Faye McCann when she phoned about 9pm.  

Laughing, she said: "I'm not 100 per cent sure because I haven't gone up." 

She said she couldn't check on Dung because she couldn't walk, but call handler McCann suggested Taylor's husband could check. 

"That's asking a bit much of him," Taylor replied, before asking Cindy Taylor, Dung's daughter, to check on her. 

Cindy Taylor took the phone and McCann encouraged the three to lay Dung's body on the floor so they could begin CPR, but Cindy Taylor said there was not enough room, before handing the phone back to Luana Taylor. 

"She's not going to follow your instructions. She's very upset right now. Uh, she won't come back to the phone right now. No, she said she's not doing it," Luana Taylor told McCann. 

In the background Luana Taylor is heard saying to her flatmates of the operator: "This lady is very persistent."

When the operator says she's just trying to help, Luana Taylor replied: "So am I. I'm trying to help the situation. They're not wanting to do anything, you're not understanding. You're stressing me out right now and I'm not well. 

"She's dead, OK? I know the difference between dead and alive. Can we get put onto police because you're very aggravating." 

Although they share a surname, Cindy Taylor is not related to her two co-defendants. 

A MISERABLE DEATH

The court earlier heard that Dung was otherwise healthy and there was no evidence of any other injuries or sickness.

She didn't have dementia or Alzheimer's and had never had a stroke. 

A mortuary official who collected Dung's body from the house would give evidence of the strong smell of the woman's body - so intense she later had to air out the vehicle used to transport the body. 

"You might have expected that Ms Dung lived alone in a house without food or water and that she'd lost the ability to care for herself," Walker told jurors. 

Instead she lived with her daughter, Cindy Taylor, and two other adults, Brian and Luana Taylor, who had a house full of food and cleaning products, and whose clean and tidy house had previously been noted by rental inspectors. 

"The three defendants all allowed her to die what was undoubtedly a miserable death in that house," Walker said. 

"This is a case about the gross neglect of an elderly and very vulnerable woman." 

Police later discovered that Cindy Taylor had been withdrawing her mother's superannuation payments and had failed to alert the Ministry of Social Development that her mother had died.

She allegedly collected $1750 using her mother's Eftpos card after Dung had died but had also been using the bank card of her uncle who had died years earlier. 

In total the Crown claimed she dishonestly withdrew $37,000 from the pair's bank accounts, however records showed that Cindy Taylor hadn't deposited that amount into her own account and refused to explain where the money had gone. 

The three defendants told police Dung was bulimic and 10 days prior to finding her dead in bed they claimed the woman had refused to eat. 

Cindy Taylor said she had tried to offer her meat, vegetables and beans regularly but after Dung allegedly refused the food she said she began forcing water or protein shakes into her mother.  

She also claimed that her mother refused to toilet herself and so she had placed the green tarpaulin-like sheet on the bed instead. 

Cindy Taylor said she had last seen her mother just a few hours before her death, and Brian Taylor told police he had waved at the elderly woman through her bedroom window just hours before her death but that he preferred to leave the woman alone because Cindy Taylor was responsible for looking after her. 

 - Stuff

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