A SON has been accused of murdering his father in a North East hospital.
Grandfather, Ralph Stephenson, died at the University Hospital of North Durham, on Thursday night, three weeks after he was admitted, suffering from various medical problems, including Parkinson's disease and pneumonia.
But staff at the hospital became suspicious about the 86-year-old’s death and contacted police.
And a post-mortem examination revealed that he had suffered what detectives described as “significant injuries”.
A murder investigation was launched at the weekend, and detectives from Durham Police arrested his 45-year-old son, also called Ralph Stephenson at his home on Tyne Road East in Stanley, County Durham, on Monday morning.
The father-of-two, who is an only child, was charged with murder yesterday.
A spokesman for Durham Police said: “A County Durham man being questioned in connection with the death of an elderly hospital patient has now been charged with his murder.
“Over the weekend detectives have been conducting an investigation at the University Hospital of North Durham into the death of 86-year-old Ralph Stephenson. He was admitted on Thursday, May 21 from a nursing home in Stanley, suffering from a number of medical problems including Parkinson's disease and pneumonia. He died on Thursday evening last week.
“Staff at the hospital raised concerns with their managers concerning Mr Stephenson's death which led to the police being informed. A post-mortem was subsequently conducted by Home Office pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton which resulted in the death being treated as suspicious.”
Det Chief Insp Adrian Green, who is leading the investigation told The Journal the post-mortem had revealed significant injuries, which led to a murder probe being launched.
He said: “At the post-mortem significant injuries were seen and as a result of the police investigation around these injuries a man has been charged with murder.”
Detectives took statements from a number of hospital staff at the weekend, before making the arrest.
The suspect was yesterday questioned at Durham City Police Station.
Ralph Stephenson senior lived with his wife Mary, 88, in a bungalow in Hazel Terrace in the Craghead area of Stanley.
He had been in poor health in the months leading-up to his death and was being cared for at a nursing home.
When The Journal spoke to Mrs Stephenson yesterday she said she did not want to comment on her husband’s death.
Ralph Stephenson junior is due to appear before magistrates at Peterlee today.
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Shock at arrest
NEIGHBOURS of both Mr Stephenson senior and his son, told of their shock at learning of the old man’s death, and his son’s subsequent arrest.
A 42-year-old man who has lived on the same street as Ralph and Mary Stephenson for more than 20 years said they were a lovely couple.
"They are a lovely family," he said. "He was a polite friendly man and they were a nice couple.
"He didn’t get out very often. He had been poorly for quite a long time. But he used to be very keen on his garden and he used to have an Alsatian dog that he used to walk all the time. But as he got older his mobility got worse, and I used to see him walking about with a stick. But I hadn’t seen him for a number of weeks
"Mary used to go out with her son quite often. He would come to visit at least once a fortnight. My wife knows Mary very well. They have got two grandchildren around the same age as my children and they used to give us all their children’s old clothes."
And the father was stunned when he heard Ralph Stephenson junior had been arrested. "It’s such a shock," he said. "I can’t believe it. He was always very quiet."
Lily Watson, 67, who lives next door to Ralph Stephenson junior, his wife and two teenage daughters, on Tyne Road East, described the family as the perfect neighbours.
And she said Mr Stephenson junior had spoken of his worries for his ill father.
"They were a nice quite couple who kept themselves to themselves, I couldn’t have asked for better neighbours," she said. "I am very surprised he has been arrested."