Man accused of assaulting nursing home residents awaits verdict

Decision on alleged sexual assault in seniors' home reserved for a month

An 81-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting four nursing home residents in Charlotte County is waiting for a verdict in his trial.    

Eric Watson testified Thursday that he never did anything inappropriate in the five to six years he volunteered at the Fundy Nursing Home in Blacks Harbour.

The complaints date from 2010 to May 2016.

All four of the alleged victims have died, and there's a court-ordered ban on publishing their identities. 

Father lived at home

Watson said he started to volunteer at the home while his own father was living there. 

He said he helped out by taking residents to the lunchroom and then walking them back to their rooms.

He said he also spent time speaking to them and would sometimes comfort them with words or, in at least one case, a hand on the shoulder. 

This all came to an end last year when complaints were filed with the RCMP. 

Accused of rubbing resident's breast

On May 14, 2016, Watson testified, he had gone to the home on his birthday, bringing cake for the staff to share.

It was around 6:30 or 7 p.m., and after he dropped off the cake in the staff room, he went to the bedroom of a resident, he said. 

She was only a friend, he said, and he had gone to say a few words before leaving for the night. 

He said she was lying in her bed and he leaned over with the intention of kissing her on the forehead.

Nurse entered room

He said at that point, the nurse had entered the room and was standing at the foot of the bed. That's when she hollered at him, Watson said. 

Watson said he left the room without trying to explain himself and never came back.  

In her closing, prosecutor Sharon Munn reminded the court the nurse had testified she stood there for a number of seconds watching Watson rub the woman's breast.

Munn also said the nurse testified Watson reacted by jumping back and his face turned red.

When asked if he'd received any training about what was or wasn't appropriate, Watson said he'd received no training at all. 

Just learned of allegations

Watson was asked by his defence lawyer Andrew Pollabauer when he became aware of all the accusations against him. 

Watson said he only learned about them Wednesday in court. 

In his closing, Pollabauer said there was no medical evidence to show whether the residents suffered from cognitive disabilities or to what extent.

He also said proper protocol for reporting such incidents wasn't followed.

If it had been followed, he said, Watson would have likely been confronted.

Pollabauer said there was also a lack of corroborating documentation.

Munn argued that the nursing staff who testified were credible and reliable and detailed in their accounts. 

She said the nurse who confronted Watson had taken notes about what she saw and did. 

Decision expected early next year

Provincial court Judge Henrik Tonning said how the matters were or were not properly handled by the nursing home were not his main concerns at trial. 

He said he had to decide whether the offences were committed or not.

And he seemed to indicate he did not find Watson credible. 

"What use can I make of my disbelief, if any?" he asked aloud.

The judge is expected to come back with a decision Jan. 9. 

Watson, who said he used to work for Connors Brothers and drove a truck, is not being held in custody.