To all appearances, it was an ordinary digital alarm clock. Except that it wasn’t.
It was a high-resolution, 30-frame remote video surveillance clock purchased for £20 on eBay, and I had bought it for one specific purpose: to record 24 hours in the life of my elderly mother at her North London care home.
After just two nights of filming, I found out that the bruising didn’t come from aspirin, as the home’s staff and the home’s doctor had assured me. It came from abuse.
One of the carers, Jonathan Aquino
, 30, has just been jailed for 18 months for what he did to my mother. The other four carers — all women — have been sacked.
By June last year, my mother had pretty much stopped talking. She could say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. She could understand commands. But when I said: ‘Are you OK?’ she would cry and say: ‘No.’
The footage showed two female carers hauling my mother out of her chair and manhandling her into bed. She was crying out in pain. One of them picked up her legs and dropped them on to the mattress.
Oh God, oh God,’ my mother was wailing. She has terrible arthritis, so rough treatment like this was agony for her. One of the carers commented nastily on how much my mother’s breath smelled.
My heart told me to run to my mother, gather her up in my arms and bring her home. But I had a stronger gut feeling that I should film one more night.
I put the memory card back in. The next day, my heart heavy with anxiety, I visited my mother. She was still; pensive.
I left at 4pm with the footage from the second night in my pocket. I was still hoping the first night had been an aberration and that the new footage would show my mother sleeping peacefully.
When I got home, I popped the memory card into my laptop. Aquino came up on the screen. I was aghast — he shouldn’t be in my mother’s room. She was supposed to have only women carers. And he was alone.
I saw him tugging my mother’s clothes and a wave of outrage rose up in my throat. With a rude shove, he rolled her on to her side while she cried out with humiliation and pain. Then his arm swung back. I heard the crack of a slap against her thigh.
Over the following minutes, I saw him slapping my mother around her thighs and her face — again and again and again.
In the police investigation that followed, no other evidence of abuse from Aquino came to light. But I wouldn’t have known about him abusing my mother if I hadn’t put the camera in her room.