Two Sydney brothers accused of gross criminal neglect of their ailing mother who repeatedly refused medical attention have walked free from court after being found not guilty of manslaughter.
Phillip Thompson, 43, and David Thompson, 40, pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of their mother, Shirley, who developed infected bedsores after becoming confined to her bed.
The 72-year-old died of sepsis in Blacktown Hospital on September 2 in 2017, some 10 days after her admission.
Her younger son called an ambulance on August 23 saying his bedridden mother couldn't eat and had a wound on her backside.
Paramedics found the dehydrated and malnourished woman had developed infected bedsores and was lying on a urine-soaked towel in her bed in a house they described as filthy and disgusting.
The prosecution alleged the men were grossly negligent, having been aware in the preceding month of her deteriorating condition - including bedsores and the significant wound - and the need for medical attention.
But Justice Fagan, who heard their NSW Supreme Court trial without a jury, on Friday acquitted them of manslaughter.
He had released the brothers, who were arrested in May 2018, from custody a week ago after the end of the trial.
They expressed their relief to reporters on Friday after hearing the not guilty verdicts.
The judge accepted evidence from a long-term friend of the mother and from her sons that Ms Thompson was adamantly opposed to receiving nursing or medical attention, either in her own home or in a nursing home or hospital.
"The evidence brought before the court in this prosecution has illustrated the great burden that may be imposed on caring relatives by an elderly person who insists upon dying at home," he said.
"Mrs Thompson's choice placed upon her sons a responsibility for geriatric nursing that demanded unfairly at the end."
The judge concluded the brothers "made no complaint, did not begrudge her and gave care that was no less than reasonable in the circumstances".
Defence witness Peter Monaghan said his friend Shirley Thompson went downhill very rapidly about a year after her husband Gordon died in 2012.
The headstrong widow repeatedly refused to get medical or personal care help, or to fund home improvements.
The judge said the squalid conditions of the house had nothing to do with Ms Thompson's fatal blood infection which flowed from bacteraemia acquired through her bedsores.
There was no evidence either brother knew of any more than the one sore on her buttock, until the younger son noticed additional small sores about two days before the ambulance was called.
Neither brother knew of the medical significance and danger of the buttock sore.
"(David) acted reasonably by commencing to treat it as a skin lesion, bathing it periodically and keeping an eye on it," the judge said.
He also rejected the crown submission that the brothers failed to provide their mother with adequate nutrition and hydration.
"Food was not withheld from Mrs Thompson," he said.
"Her declining intake, particularly over the last 10 days at home, was a symptom of the bacteraemia she had contracted."
Australian Associated Press