Home Entertainment Horrific moment bank customer kills Alzheimer’s sufferer, 82, by shoving her over...

Horrific moment bank customer kills Alzheimer’s sufferer, 82, by shoving her over in ‘red mist’ because she was taking too long in queue as she avoids jail

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A judge has called on banks to ensure all staff have dementia awareness training after Lloyds staff failed to deal with an 82-year-old customer, who was fatally pushed to the ground.

Courtney Richman, 26, was convicted of manslaughter after she pushed 82-year-old Myra Coutinho-Lopez to the floor of Lloyds Bank in Welwyn Garden City on December 6, 2021, after the pensioner had hit her with her handbag.

Richman was today handed a 16-month jail term suspended for 21 months for hitting the frail elderly woman with Alzheimer’s.

Mrs Coutinho-Lopez had forgotten she had withdrawn money three days earlier and caused a long queue to develop as she had a 15-minute argument with a cashier.

She died on December 16, 2021, 10 days after being pushed, a trial at Luton Crown Court heard.

Myra Coutinho-Lopez, 82, who had Alzheimer's, died after another customer pushed her over at a Lloyd's bank in December 2021

Myra Coutinho-Lopez, 82, who had Alzheimer’s, died after another customer pushed her over at a Lloyd’s bank in December 2021

Courtney Richman, 26, was found guilty of manslaughter after killing Mrs Coutinho-Lopez

Courtney Richman, 26, was found guilty of manslaughter after killing Mrs Coutinho-Lopez

Passing sentence, Judge Michael Simon was critical of Lloyd’s banking staff for failing to diffuse the situation, with the manager failing to intervene.

He said: ‘The Court calls on the banking sector as a whole to ensure that all customer-facing staff are provided with dementia awareness training, which includes recognised strategies for interacting with customers who experience such difficulties and for defusing conflict.

‘It is not possible to be sure that if this had been in place in December 2021 that the events leading to the death of Mrs Coutinho-Lopez would not have happened, but on the evidence before this court it is highly likely that the incident would not have ended in tragedy as it did.’

Today, Mrs Coutinho-Lopez’s daughter Michelle Lopez said that she and her family had been left ‘trapped in an emotional prison.’.

‘It was a consequence of Courtney Richman’s heinous and vicious behaviour,’ she added.

The incident occurred after the pensioner became confused and a queue formed behind her at the Lloyds branch in Howardsgate (pictured)

The incident occurred after the pensioner became confused and a queue formed behind her at the Lloyds branch in Howardsgate (pictured) 

Ms Lopez said that her brother Miles is undergoing cancer treatment in the US and was distraught to be without his mother’s love. He had planned a trip home in December 2021 which her mother was looking forward to but, instead, it turned into ‘a solemn vigil at our mother’s bedside.’

Ms Lopez also blasted the ‘apathy and absence of empathy’ from Lloyd’s Bank staff, who stood by while the situation escalated. She praised one customer, a Miss Yen, who tried to help her mother.

She also said that Richman had ‘revelled in her freedom’ since that day.

In mitigation, Claire Davies KC said Richman had lost both of her parents as a child and had a troubled adolescence.

Her previous relationship was described as ‘toxic and abusive’ and she had lost custody of her two children as a result of her conviction.

Ms Richman was hoping to start work again as a cleaner but Ms Davies said her client would require additional support around thinking and problem-solving skills.

The court was told that on the day in question, Ms Richman, who was in the queue of covid-mask wearing customers, was heard to say: ‘Hurry up – people don’t have all day.’

Another woman customer, Miss Yen, who had been using a cash machine inside the bank, offered to help the elderly woman. As she walked her away, Courtney Richman said: ‘Oh thank God’ and applauded.

When Mrs Coutinho-Lopez passed her she told her: ‘Don’t speak to me like that – you are very rude’ and ‘I bet your boyfriend has left you.’

CCTV played to the jury of 7 men and 5 women showed Mrs Coutinho-Lopez swing her handbag and hit Courtney Richman on the back. The young woman then pushed her.

Prosecutor Martin Mulgrew said Courtney Richman had shown: ‘a catastrophic loss of temper.’

He said: ‘The defendant reacted in a wholly inappropriate and unreasonably violent manner. She angrily pushed Mrs Coutinho-Lopez forcefully to the floor of the bank. She struck the floor with some force.’

He went on: ‘The red mist descended on this defendant and she reacted in a wholly inappropriate fashion to this vulnerable old lady.’

Mrs Coutinho-Lopez suffered fractures to her left upper arm and thigh bone and bruising to her left upper arm, wrist, the tops of her fingers, around her rib cage and flank.

As well as Alzheimer’s, she suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

As a result of the fractures, fatty substances were released into her body that caused damage to her lungs and brain, said Mr Mulgrew.

Mr Mulgrew said as she suffered from Alzheimer’s Mrs Coutinho-Lopez often forgot when she had been into the bank. She had gone into the bank at 2pm on the Monday, not remembering she had withdrawn money there on the previous Friday.

Judge Simon said: ‘She was a well-known customer and it was also known by staff at the bank that she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

When in the bank, Mrs Coutinho-Lopez sought to withdraw money, only to be told that she did not have the money in her account, because she had withdrawn it already on a previous day. This was not the first occasion on which Mrs Coutinho-Lopez had requested to withdraw money, only to find that the money was not in her account. There was nothing sinister about this, it was simply that due to her Alzheimer’s, she did not remember. Understandably, she would become concerned about money appearing to go missing from her account.

‘The court’s clear impression of the full CCTV coverage of Mrs Coutinho-Lopez’ time in the bank that day, is that the bank staff appeared to have adopted an approach of simply telling her that she had taken out the money already with sufficient repetition and increasing firmness, hoping that this would alleviate the difficulty and reassure Mrs Coutinho-Lopez. It may be that this approach had succeeded in the past.

‘However, on Monday 6 December 2021, it was clearly not working. Mrs Coutinho-Lopez was far from reassured and the conversation between herself and bank staff was becoming more heated and less likely to be resolved.

‘The branch manager was very much present but at no time did she become involved; indeed Mrs Coutinho-Lopez was told at one point that the manager was unavailable. It was said at trial by other staff members that the manager was busy dealing with a customer who may have been the victim of fraud, however, she was patently physically present in the banking hall for much of the situation as it deteriorated over a significant period of time.

‘In the event, no effective action was taken by any member of staff to defuse the argument between Mrs Coutinho-Lopez and the teller.

‘The court’s view is informed by the unassailable fact that 20 to 30 minutes into the confrontation between Mrs Coutinho-Lopez and the bank teller, there being no sign of resolution but rather only escalation, it took Ms Yen, another customer, but a second or two of speaking kindly and in a sympathetic manner to Mrs Coutinho-Lopez for her to feel as if someone wanted to help her and she agreed to move away from the counter.

‘No drama, no threats, no mention of the police – just genuine kindness from someone who may have had a little more insight into those who suffer with Alzheimer’s and how one might best interact with them.

‘That finding satisfies the court that the context within which the physical altercation arose was contributed to significantly by an apparent lack of understanding on the part of bank staff.’

Detective Superintendent Rob Hall, Head of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, said: ‘This has been a harrowing ordeal for Myra’s family and our thoughts remain with them at what continues to be a difficult time.’

Myra’s daughter, Michelle Lopez, paid tribute to her mother and said: ‘We’ve been forced to navigate the difficulties and trials of life without my beloved mother for over two years.

‘Her life was taken away from her on 16 December 2021, and we’ve been left trapped in an emotional prison with scars too deep to be mended ever since.

‘She’s left an unspeakable void to all who knew her including her beloved children, extended family and lifelong friends worldwide.

‘The yearning for my mother’s presence is a constant ache in my heart, particularly as I observe other daughters engaging in mundane activities with their mothers, such as grocery shopping or sharing a coffee or meal together. These memorable moments now evoke a feeling of emptiness.

‘Those who knew her miss her deeply and will continue to cherish her memory and honour her legacy of kindness, fortitude and generosity. She was a shining light on how to survive and thrive in life despite adversities and setbacks.

‘After enduring years of waiting, I’m thankful to the jury for reaching a guilty verdict, and for the work of Hertfordshire Constabulary officers and the Crown Prosecution Service.’

Ends



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