Frame grab from Seven News showing nurse ‘Roger’ from Quakers Hill Nursing Home talking on camera after fire which killed at least four residence from the home, 18 November 2011. Credit Seven News. SHD News.Roger Dean Victims: These residents died as a result of the fire and a further eight suffered from serious injuries. Firefighters said they could hear residents calling out for help.
For the first time prosecutors have revealed why Roger Kingsley Dean set fire to the Quakers Hill nursing home: to destroy evidence that he had stolen about 230 tablets prescribed to the residents.
Dean, 37, an aged-care nurse at the home, pleaded guilty to all charges of murdering 11 residents in the fire in November 2011, bringing tears of relief from his victims’ relatives.
His admission in the NSW Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Crown case to be released. It alleged that the night before the fire, Dean repeatedly went into the room where the home kept its addictive medications and stole 237 tablets of the narcotic painkiller Endone and one capsule of the morphine drug Kapanol. These can be bought, with a prescription, for about $85.
According to the Crown statement, to which Dean is yet to formally agree, he became extremely fearful when nursing home managers discovered the stolen drugs and called police.
The next night, after trying unsuccessfully to get into the locked room where the drug registry books were kept, Dean told two junior nurses to take an unscheduled break and walked into the A2 wing. Using a stolen cigarette lighter he set fire to the sheets of an empty bed.
A few minutes later Dean walked into room three of the A1 wing and set another bed alight. That bed was also unoccupied but the other two beds in the room held Dorothy Sterling and Dorothy Wu, who Dean knew were immobile, according to the Crown case.
After lighting the fire Dean helped one resident, Helen Perry, out of the A1 wing. ”We’ve got to get them out, we’ve got to get them out,” Ms Perry reportedly said, as
Dean guided her away. Dean reportedly replied: ”Don’t worry Helen, just leave them. We’ve got to get out. People are on their way to get them out.”
Firefighters arrived soon after and extinguished the flames in A2 wing but were not told of the fire in the other part of the building.
At 5.02am Dean burst out of A1 wing with thick clouds of smoke billowing behind him.
According to the Crown statement, he then helped evacuate some residents, ”being careful to keep up the appearance of having nothing to do with the lighting of the two fires”.
By the time firefighters entered A1 wing the fire ” … had already gone up into the roof and was burning fiercely. [Firefighters] could hear residents calling out for help.”
Eleven residents died as a result of the fire, including Ms Wu and Ms Sterling. Another eight suffered serious injuries.
Dean then tried four times to get into the home to retrieve the drug books, which contained all records of prescription drug use.
On the fifth occasion he pleaded with firefighter Gavin White, telling him: ”I need to go inside to get the drug book. I need to get in there.”
Finally, Dean convinced station officer Brett Johnson to let him in. He was taken into the burning building by two firefighters, handing them the keys to the locked cabinet where the books were kept and saying, ”We need them. We need to get these out.”
After taking the books, Dean told officers: ”I need to get home. I need to get a Ventolin … I really need my Ventolin.”
As he left the scene, Dean did a quick interview with a Channel Seven camera crew, telling them ”… we got a lot of people out so that’s the main thing.”
When he arrived home, Dean tore up the two drug register books and placed the remains in a plastic shopping bag, which he threw in the dumpster of a cake shop.
The Crown statement reveals that Dean became a suspect almost immediately, and was interviewed by police the next day.
After speaking to two Bible study friends, Dean admitted lighting the fires. But he said he had done so, not by a desire to destroy the evidence of his stealing, but because Satan had told him to do it.
When police searched the flat Dean shared they found almost all of the stolen drugs in canisters labelled ”Roger’s doctor prescribed medication”.
Dean will return to court on Thursday to begin the sentencing process.
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