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Robert Bates

Robert BatesThe triple tragedy for Violet and her family

by Mikey Powell Campaign
Originally published 14th November 2004

Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item

Now 28 years old, Robert Bates has been in a persistent vegetative state since trying to hang himself while he was on remand at Brinsford Young Offenders Institute (YOI) in 1994 for allegedly stealing a car.

For his mother, Violet Brayson, and her family this was only the start of a string of tragedies for them.

Two more of Violet’s children (youngest son Aaron, aged 12 and Anne-Marie, aged 19, went on to take their lives by hanging themselves. Her family are convinced that seeing what happened to their brother had contributed to their deaths. They are angry that, even now in 2004, there are still questions unanswered about what happened to their son prior to his attempt to hang himself. They have never had plausible explanations for the injuries that Robert sustained (a dislocated thumb, and badly injured knee and hip), which could not be attributed to his hanging attempt.

Robert was placed in a segregation unit following an altercation with staff, and he was found hanging in his cell the following evening. Robert was admitted to the intensive care unit of Wolverhampton Hospital in a coma.

The family made daily trips to the hospital to visit and care for Robert, and Violet recollects how this led to her having little time or energy for the rest of the family. The needs of her desperately ill son became almost a singular focus.

Robert remained in hospital for 7 months after which time his family insisted that he be taken home to be cared for. They believed that Robert would not survive in an institution, and the family had never lost hope that with proper nursing care Robert might one day recover to a degree.

Robert’s mother and stepfather, Ron, nursed him themselves for much of the first 18 months after a ‘care plan’ they had negotiated with the local health authority broke down. Violet says, “We just got on with it.” Sadly, even to this day, Robert still relies totally on the care of his family.

Robert’s high level of care means that at least one member of his family must be awake at any given time of the night or day. Ron explained, “Violet would be up for three days and nights without proper sleep, then she would go to bed for twelve or fourteen hours in one go.”It upset the balance in the family, we were there but we weren’t there. He goes on to say about the other children, “They became part-time kids.”

Sadly, between 2000 and 2001 Violet and Ron were to lose two more of their children who were severely angered and distressed at what had happened to Robert. They recall that both Aaron and Anne at first appeared to be coping until both started to show disturbing changes in their behaviour and character.

One of Roberts carers, registered nurse Elaine Moreton had come to know the family well and stated that, “Aaron and Robert were very, very close. Aaron was a lovely boy, as bright as a button. There were no files on Aaron.” Anne had started misbehaving at school, and at 14 years old she became pregnant.

Violet and Ron blame themselves. They say “I think she suffered partly because she saw a lot of our attention was going to Robert.” Following the birth of Anne’s first baby, Menitia, Violet says, “She loved her baby to bits, but she didn’t want to stay in the house. “If there was a knock on the door and her friends came round for her, I wouldn’t see her for days.”

Violet and Ron are still trying to come to terms with the deaths of their children and the awful living proof of what happened to their son Robert. “When people talk about it, that’s when I know they’re dead, but I can’t take it all in, it’s like I’m blanking it all out” says Violet. She goes on to say, “There are days when I’d much rather lie on my bed and not wake up.”

Roberts family and children of his sister Anne, at the sixth annual procession in London 2004However, throughout the nightmare that this family have had to endure, the nagging doubts remain about what really happened to Robert, and why he ended up trying to hang himself. Violet says, “It’s like I’ve lost myself as well in all this. “There’s no will there some days, but I can only manage one job and I focus on how could they have done this? And everything leads back to Robert.”

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