An extraordinary insurance claim came to my attention when the Chief State Solicitor asked me to investigate a case against Ireland and the Attorney-General. Cases against the State are usually dealt with by the Chief State Solicitor’s office. We frequently undertook investigations on behalf of various government departments. This one was a bit different.
The 36 year-old woman in question, Ms X, was a “guest” of the State in Limerick Prison when she allegedly fell down stairs. Another prisoner bumped into her, causing her to stumble, hence the claim. She cited “severe personal injuries and substantial loss and damage”.
Finding the Claimant
There were two immediate problems. By the time I was instructed, 7 years had passed since the accident. The second problem was that the authorities had no address, photograph or even a description of the woman, who was claiming over £10 million plus additional special damages and on-going costs for life.
Checks with Limerick Prison and the police didn’t help. They had no records, address or even a photograph of the claimant. Nothing of use to the State’s case. So where to start? The medical reports were as good a place as any. As I read through these, it seemed that the field narrowed. The lady’s medical report indicated that she was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk without the aid of callipers and a walking frame. A later report claimed her condition had seriously deteriorated. She was now reduced to paraplegic level; with no feelings below her waist and had no response to standard pin-pricks or sensory examinations. She claimed to be doubly incontinent, with blurred vision and slurred speech.
As her health had declined, her claim had increased, along with her medical bills. She required special clothing, cushions, lifting poles, an ambu-lift hoist, an adjustable bed, portable telephone, medi-alarm, special shower, structural alterations to her home, specially adapted car and a home-carer. These were just some of the claims on a very long list. Her solicitors were unable to provide a current address, as their client only contacted them occasionally by phone.
Given her history of criminal activity, on a long shot I searched for her in Britain. It is not unusual to find that Irish recidivists have come to the attention of police there. My hunch was right. She was well known to British police under various aliases and had received a 6 month prison sentence for fraud, suspended for 2 years, just before she fled to Ireland and ended up in Limerick Prison. She had a history of bank fraud and deception. She’d also been involved in prostitution and heroin abuse since the age of 16.
I turned up a photograph and a last-known address in the UK, which, although years old, was the first real break I¹d had in the case. A credit reference check produced a list of previous addresses, not to mention the debts she’d racked up, but nothing current. It was going to be a tough and lengthy job. Cutting a very long story short, I tracked her down to an address in London.
The location made it difficult for surveillance. Her flat looked out onto a busy roundabout at the front, the only entrance being via an enclosed courtyard accessible only from another road. The courtyard was always busy, as tenants gathered to hang out their washing or to chat. The flat complex had a very active Neighbourhood Watch and strangers were immediately noted.
A recce of the the area located a wheelchair-adapted car similar to the one being claimed for. A check showed it was registered to someone else, although perhaps she just hadn’t transferred the ownership details. There was nothing for it but to watch and wait. It could be a long time before she showed, if she was as incapacitated as she claimed.
A “lady of the night”
Nothing happened for weeks, until one afternoon she finally left the flat. It was definitely the woman in the photograph I’d managed to get hold of, but she wasn’t in a wheelchair. She walked quickly up the main road and across the busy roundabout, nipping in and out between the traffic without difficulty. She went into a local shop, where she was obviously on friendly terms with the owner. She went behind the counter and used his phone to order a pizza; then climbed onto a high stool without difficulty and sat chatting with him. An hour later her pizza arrived. Carrying the large box she ran to a car which had just pulled up outside and jumped into the passenger seat, as the male driver drove away.
From then on, it was straightforward. Over the following weeks I kept observation, photographing and videoing her miraculous recovery, as she walked on the local common or dragged a heavy shopping trolley with no difficulty for almost two miles from the town centre to her home. She was caught on video hanging out large sheets and duvets, tending her small garden and cleaning her windows. To my surprise, keeping her under observation I discovered that she was engaged plying her trade as a prostitute by night.
New medical examinations were arranged as a court date for her injury claim approached. Ms X still had no response to the usual neurological tests. Doctors were puzzled. Was it perhaps a psychological condition?
The day finally arrived when the case came to court. The claimant arrived in a wheelchair, pushed by an assistant. She was drooling and unable to verbally communicate with her counsel.
Just before the case was called both legal teams went into the Chief State Solicitor’s office in the Four Courts to watch a video. To their surprise, they watched as their wheelchair-bound claimant was seen to carry on her usual trade and other activities. An apparent miraculous recovery!
Horse tranquiliser used!
It was determined that she was using S-ketamine, a horse tranquiliser and dis-associative anaesthetic which depresses the central nervous system. Commonly used in veterinary medicine, the drug allowed her to mimic symptoms associated with negative responses to neurological tests. The scam was up. Used by battlefield medics S-ketamine allows surgery to take place whilst the patient is awake. Recreational use of the drug has grown over the past 30 years. The anaesthetic can sometimes allow a person to talk and interact, depending on the dosage but they feel no pain during procedures. Considered dangerous unless administered by a medic, it can be enough to suggest paralysis in an individual, who can suffer other side effects including incontinence and slurring of speech. It¹s a dangerous substance but if the stakes are high some individuals are willing to take the risks.
I had been called in exactly 7 years after the alleged accident happened. Not only had I traced the claimant, but I’d managed to resolve the case within a relatively short time. Almost another 3 years passed before the matter finally came to court. During that time, I revisited Ms X on a regular basis to ensure she was still in rude good health. I got to know her movements well and obtained dozens of photographs and videos of her, summer and winter, up to all sorts of activities. Ms X did receive a very small settlement for her fall, but not the millions she’d been expecting, despite her Oscar-winning performances and the patience to wait all those years. I had discovered that the only “real” job Ms X ever had during her life was that of a clairvoyant. A pity then, that she didn’t see me coming!
Article submitted by Overseas member (OV612) Sandra Mara who operates MARA PI World Wide Investigation Services. For further info email: firstname.lastname@example.org