Investigation Continues Into Boy's 1968 Death At Psych
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 24, 2004
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND--Regardless of what a coroner and pathologist officially reported, Stephen Lindsay believes that his childhood buddy, Clement Matthews, was killed by a nurse at the psychiatric institution where they lived.
Manukau police have believed Lindsay enough to reopen the investigation into the April 28, 1968 death of the 11-year-old Matthews.
Lindsay was 14 years of age when his friend "Clem" died at Kingseat Hospital.
Health records showed that Matthews had been admitted to the institution because of "mental subnormality associated with disturbed behaviour of an aggressive nature".
On the morning before he died, Matthews, who had an obsession with food, stole a piece of bread from the dining room. According to Lindsay, a nurse grabbed Matthews by the neck, twisted him to the floor, then kicked him solidly in the back.
"I had heard something snap. It was like a branch breaking," Lindsay told the New Zealand Herald this week. "I knew at the time his back was broken."
Lindsay said he heard his friend scream. He went to comfort the boy, but his friend just groaned as he slipped in and out of consciousness. Staff members then dragged Matthews to his room.
The next morning, Lindsay found Matthews in his room, lying face down and barely breathing. Medical staff pronounced him dead 15 minutes later.
The official coroner's report stated that Matthews died of pneumonia, even though it noted that the boy's health prior to his death "had caused no undue concern."
Lindsay is accusing the staff of the former institution of covering up a crime.
"Clem didn't die of pneumonia," Lindsay said. "He wasn't even sick."
Clement's mother, Rebecca Matthews, also wants to know what happened the day before her son died.
"He was a good boy," she told the Herald.
More than 200 complaints have been filed recently by former patients of psychiatric institutions across New Zealand, alleging that they were physically and sexually abused by staff members and other residents. Some claim they were over-medicated, unwillingly subjected to experiments in electro-shock treatment, and placed in isolation for long periods of time -- sometimes for months.
Most of the complaints concern incidents that allegedly occurred during the 1960s and 1970s by patients who were between 8 and 16 years of age at the time.
Nearly 70 legal claims have been filed so far in the High Court, each asking for as much as $500,000 in compensation and up to $50,000 in exemplary damages, the New Zealand Herald reported. Another 40 cases are close to being filed.
Sonja Cooper, who represents more than half the claimants, said that many were taken to the institutions for the wrong reasons. Most blame their abusive treatment at the facilities for their current depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms.
Until recently officials had believed the abuses were confined to two former institutions. As more claimants came forward in the past several weeks, nearly all of the country's psychiatric hospitals had been implicated.
Most of the facilities either are closed or no longer operate as mental institutions.
"Witness to boy's death believes there was a cover-up" (New Zealand Herald)
"Mother wants to know how son died at psychiatric hospital" (New Zealand Herald)
"Abuse complaints 'should be believed', says lawyer" (New Zealand Herald)