A senior care worker at a nursing home was videoed punching a vulnerable dementia patient after her victim’s wife installed a covert camera to investigate how he was being treated.

Former nurse Dimitrinka Yonova, 54, whose career has included stints working in Bulgaria and Libya before she landed her senior carer job at the Lanercost House Nursing Home in Belle Vue, Carlisle, denied wilfully ill-treating 62-year-old Royston Abbott on June 17 last year.

She was convicted of the abuse after a three-hour trial.

The court heard a heart-rending account from the victim’s wife Helen Abbott of how Alzheimer’s disease robbed him of his ability to walk, talk, or live independently.

A former keen darts player, capable of brilliant mental maths, he began having problems when he was around 50. He was then diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease - a condition that also affected his grandmother.

Mr Abbott eventually needed full-time professional care, and was admitted to a specialist 15-bed unit at Lanercost House in October, 2016.

But Mrs Abbott became concerned about the standard of care. “I didn’t feel that the care staff were doing their job properly,” she told the court.

Her husband’s care plan included an instruction that three staff should be involved whenever he underwent personal care. But Mrs Abbott saw occasions when this did not happen, she said. Staff were also supposed to reassure her husband - known as Rossy - when giving him personal care.

Despite being unable to speak, he understood what was happening and reassurance was vital, said Mrs Abbott.

She continued: “My daughters and I also noticed something which was totally out of character: he was crying when we visited him, which alarmed us.”

This was when she decided to install a hidden camera in his room. After reviewing the footage for June 17, she was appalled, she said.

“I could not believe what I was seeing,” she said.

In one 75-second clip, Yonova - seen from behind - stood at Mr Abbott’s bedside, her left hand at one point suddenly jabbing towards her patient as he began to moan loudly. Mrs Abbott said: “That was clearly the sound of my husband in distress.”

Yonova denied being frustrated, or striking, Mr Abbott. The footage captured her telling him sharply to move his leg. She admitted speaking harshly to him and conceded she should have reassured Mr Abbott. Explaining her sudden hand movement, she said: “I was moving the sling hoist straps from under his bottom...I haven’t done anything to cause him pain. I was just helping him.”

She rejected the suggestion Mr Abbott cried out in distress. “It was usual for him to make noises like that,” she said.

The defendant suggested Mrs Abbott often complained about the care given to her husband.

Prosecutor Peter Kelly said it was astonishing the defendant, when accused bluntly of the assault by police, did not respond with an outright and immediate denial. Instead, she said she did not think she had assaulted him.

In court, Yonova said: “I haven’t assaulted him at all.”

After convicting Yonova, of Ruthella Street, Carlisle, magistrates imposed an 18-month community order, with 20 days rehabilitation and 200 hours of unpaid work. She must pay £500 costs.


Magistrates heard a moving statement from Helen Abbott about the devastating impact of the abuse meted out to her husband.

“My husband is a true, kind, caring and genuine man, who always trusted people and tended to see the good side of people,” she wrote.

Her suspicions were aroused partly by the realisation that her husband seemed uncomfortable whenever Yonova was nearby. The covert camera confirmed her worst fears.I am appalled that she has done this to my husband. I feel she should not be allowed to care, or work in the care industry, or be in a position of trust ever again.

“There is no justification at all for what she has done to my husband. How would she feel if her loved one was in that situation?

“We will never know the full extent of the dreadful treatment inflicte on [my husband] and possibly others.

“Vulnerable people like Rossy don’t have a voice. They need to feel safe and protected. This must be prevented from happening to others like him. Lessons must surely by Lanercost House and Barchester Healthcare management and by staff at Lanercost House.

“Can you imagine being in [Rossy’s] situation; being helpless and unable to do anything about it?”

“I have totally lost trust in care home settings,” she said. She said Yonova should never be allowed to work as a carer again.

  • If you have an adult safeguarding concern, call 0300 303 3249.
  • Yonova was a paid employee - a senior care worker - at the home but has now been dismissed.