A SON who is on trial jointly accused of the manslaughter “through neglect” of his late mother told a jury that she was “strong-minded” and “stubborn.

Whitehaven man David Holyoak, 53, and Robert Christopher Morgan, both deny the allegation that their failure to get timely medical help for 71-year-old Dorothy Morgan amounted to “gross negligence” manslaughter.

She died on February 4, 2021, several days after being admitted to Whitehaven's West Cumberland Hospital.

Mrs Morgan was extremely emaciated, dehydrated, and suffering from bed sores which had become infected, causing sepsis.

The prosecution case is that her death was the result of the negligence of her husband and Holyoak, her son by another man.

Both defendants say they failed to get help sooner because they were respecting Dorothy Morgan’s wishes to not seek medical help.

Giving his evidence for the first time during the Carlisle Crown Court trial, Holyoak confirmed that he had left school with three A-levels and then started a chemistry degree at university.

But after giving that up and working in Cardiff for a time, he returned to his mother’s Calder Avenue home in Whitehaven 13 or 14 years ago to live there with her and his co-defendant.

For more than a hour, defence barrister Bob Elias questioned Holyoak. The defendant said he works for a small local supermarket.

Asked for a description of his mother’s personality, he replied: “She was very stubborn about things.” He agreed she was “strong minded” and said he would do what his mother said. Mr Elias then asked Holyoak to describe his own personality.

He said: “Not very strong-minded – lacking in self-confidence. It’s been commented on by other people that I need to be more self-confident.”

He agreed he needed to be more “assertive.” When he was at home, said Holyoak, he tended to live his life in his bedroom.

Holyoak said he was not a very talkative person.

Taking the witness stand was “one of the hardest things he had ever had to do" and he had dreaded speaking in court, he said.

Mr Elias then asked Holyoak about the point at which his mother “took to her bed.” The defendant said he did not know why she did that.

He said he asked her about this and suggested she get help because she “obviously wasn’t well.”

Holyoak continued: “She was adamant she wasn’t going to see anybody.”

“Was that a longstanding thing?” asked Mr Elias.

“Yes,” replied the defendant.

Holyoak said his mother had spoken of not wanting to go to “that bloody hospital,” Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital.

“I think she’d heard horror stories about patients having bad treatment there.” Her father had died there, he said.

Holyoak said his mother had on more than one occasion said she would rather throw herself off St Bees Head than be admitted to the Whitehaven hospital.

Mr Elias then asked the defendant about his mother’s move to living on the settee in their home. She drank hot chocolate and a product called Complan; she also had water, which she drank from a tumbler on the table next to her, he said.

On the day that Morgan dialled 999 for an ambulance, he said they had found Dorothy Morgan slumped forward and her breathing was laboured.

When trying to answer a question from the NHS call handler, they had tried to wake Mrs Morgan but she did not respond.

Asked how he felt about the later diagnosis that she had lung cancer, Holyoak said: “I was devastated; I didn’t want my mum to be suffering with cancer.

"I didn’t want to lose my mother.”

Mr Elias also questioned Holyoak about text messages that were exchanged between him and a friend. In one, his friend had commented that it sounded like his mother was dying.

Holyoak said: “I didn’t want to admit it; I was in denial. I didn’t want it to be true.”

Mr Elias asked Holyoak: “Are you good at emotions?” The defendant replied: “No.”

He accepted that in some messages he had talked about his mother being “annoying” and said this related to her waking him up at night to ask him to turn off her light in her room.  

She would do this some 20 or 30 minutes after he had already turned it off.

He did not mind getting up to help her to the toilet, to get her a hot chocolate, he said. But given she had turned the light back on again, it was annoying to be called back to turn it off again, he said.

The trial continues.