Northern Ireland

Timeline of unprecedented Muckamore abuse investigation

Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim Picture Mal McCann
Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim Picture Mal McCann


August 12: Patient allegedly assaulted by staff member in Muckamore, parents not informed for a fortnight

August 30: DUP MP Gavin Robinson phones Department of Health on behalf of father of patient

September 7: Department receives 'alert' from trust about abuse

October 20: Letter sent by department bosses to Belfast trust chief criticising "wholly unacceptable" delays in trust reporting

November 30: Second letter by Department raising concerns at how trust probed abuse and orders independent review


July 26 2018 - A whistleblower contacts The Irish News about the scale of an abuse investigation at Muckamore Abbey Hospital. A total of 13 staff, mainly nurses are suspended. It emerges a major police probe is underway.

July 27 - The Belfast trust says it "wishes to apologise unreservedly" to patients and their families after CCTV footage allegedly shows patients being struck by staff and pulled to the floor by the hair.

August 2 - The Irish News reveals that an independent 'level 3' Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) probe into Muckamore was triggered the previous September.

August 7 - The Department of Health issues eight 'red flag' alert letters in relation to nursing staff facing abuse allegations.

August 15 - Police confirm they are investigating more than 70 incidents relating to allegations of "ill treatment" of patients.

August 18 - Three nurses suspended from Muckamore are banned from working in the health service for the next 18 months.

October 8 - The father of a Muckamore patient whose son was allegedly punched in the stomach learns that 30 "incidents" are now being probed in relation to his case - after initially being told it was a "one-off". The figure later rises to 43 incidents.

October 8 - Patients at Muckamore have a "one in four" chance of being harmed and the hospital is a "high-risk setting", an expert heading up a confidential abuse probe concludes.

October 23 - The mother of a woman with learning disabilities says her daughter was left "traumatised and terrified" by her treatment at Muckamore and equated a seclusion room to "jail".

December 4 - National Crime Agency is appointed by the PSNI to assist because police are now investigating more than 132 incidents.

December 11 - Lives were "compromised" at Muckamore and complaints dismissed, a confidential report finds. The report was given to families but was not published publicly.

December 17 - The Irish News reveals the Belfast Trust "suppressed" details of abuse at the hospital.

December 23: Irish News reveals Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) is closed due to staff suspensions.

December 24: Father reveals his son escaped from PICU into carpark


January 22: Private correspondence reveals Department chiefs "alarm" at trust's handling of abuse probe. They admit they only became aware after a call from a politician

January 30: Police raid eight properties in connection with the Muckamore probe, seizing mobile phones and “other items”.

January 31: FOI reveals Belfast health trust boss accepted there were “clear failures” in alerting government to the Muckamore scandal.

February 11: Trust accused of “shambolic” management after seven Muckamore nurses have temporary bans lifted following legal challenge.

February 11: Trade union representing majority of Muckamore nurses confirms for first time it is backing calls for independent inquiry.

April 11: Belfast health trust boss apologises to the father of patient who was forced to use Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to find out about abuse of his son.

April 11: Police confirm ‘ill-treatment’ allegations stand at 300 – double the figure from January.

May 1: Outcry after leaked correspondence reveals Department of Health does not believe “it is in the public interest” to have a public inquiry into Muckamore.

July 4: Former first minister Arlene Foster writes to top civil servant at department about the need to “prioritise” a public inquiry.

August 27: Lead PSNI detective in Muckamore investigation reveals 1,500 crimes have been identified in relation to just one ward.

October 15:First arrest by detectives probing abuse

November 11:Second arrest over allegations