Man to be sentenced next week over attempted murder of his mother

Monday 17 February 2014 22.16
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Vera Vollrath was found dead in her room at Killure Bridge Nursing Home just outside Waterford City
Vera Vollrath was found dead in her room at Killure Bridge Nursing Home just outside Waterford City
Gerald Vollrath has pleaded guilty to attempted murder
Gerald Vollrath has pleaded guilty to attempted murder

Sentencing has been adjourned until next week in the case of a 47-year-old man who pleaded guilty to attempting to murder his mother in a Waterford nursing home two years ago.

Gerald Vollrath of Tramore Heights, Tramore had pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of 83-year-old Veronica Vollrath in January 2012.

Ms Vollrath was found dead in her room at Killure Bridge Nursing Home just outside Waterford City, in January 2012.

Shortly afterwards, her son was charged with her murder, but pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Before his trial started, the Central Criminal Court was told the prosecution would be dropping the charge. He then pleaded guilty to a substituted charge of attempted murder.

The court heard Ms Vollrath was not well when she went into the nursing home. But in December 2011 she suffered a severe stroke.

She was in an extremely frail state of health and was receiving end of life care.

She had been withdrawn from all medication, had lost her swallow reflex, and had taken no fluids or food for over a week. She was unresponsive.

Vollrath's sister called him back to Ireland from Austria because it was considered that his mother's death was imminent.

The family started a 24-hour vigil by his mother's bedside. He was due to continue the vigil again on the night of 8 January.

Before that he went to a pub in Tramore, where he told a friend that his mother had said she did not want to be an inconvenience.

He had a number of drinks before going back to his mother's bedside.

The court heard that some time later, Vollrath put a pillow over his mother's face and left it there for perhaps two minutes.

But the prosecution told the court that it could not be said with absolute certainty that she was not already dead when this happened.

There were no signs she had actually died from suffocation. She had sustained no trauma, and no injury.

The doctor was called and pronounced her dead - but did not notice anything unusual.

It was only later, at the family home, that Vollrath disclosed what he had done. He left the house, hours later, but was arrested at Dublin Airport.

The court heard he presented as a deeply distressed man when interviewed by gardaí, but the only evidence was his admission.

Vollrath was described as a family man. The court heard he was a kind and gentle son, who was appalled by his mother's condition.

The defence told the court that his primary concern was for the comfort of his mother.

His sister, Anna Kirk, told the court that the entire family had supported Vollrath since their mother's death, and the over-riding feeling was one of compassion.

She said that Vollrath and his mother had a very close and loving relationship. Ms Kirk told the court that her mother was a woman of great compassion and would not want to see her family destroyed by her passing.

She said everyone in the family had compassion for what had happened.

Mr Justice Paul Carney said this was the first time he had ever encountered anything of this nature in 50 years.

He adjourned sentencing in this case until next Monday.