Sahar Adatia.

As the world of criminal law continues to reveal, the ways in which wrongdoers go about threatening or causing physical harm to a person in the face of an ulterior motive can be cunning, to say the least. 

From stringing a fishing line at neck height across a suburban pathway, to brazen torture, criminal behaviour appears to encompass no shortage of deviousness.

But if there was any doubt on just how twisted some criminals can get, then take the recent case of a woman in Spain who rid her partner by allegedly poisoning him with a dose of laxatives so strong that it left him suffering in hospital for seven months with chronic diarrhoea before eventually succumbing to his ailments.

It’s a case that made headlines across news outlets, and while it is not entirely clear just yet, according to local reports, it is believed the 56-year-old woman repeatedly slipped the laxatives into her 70-year-old partner’s mealswhile she was visiting him in a hospital in Valencia.

In fact, she also allegedly stopped the man’s family and friends from coming to see him, falsely declaring to them that visits were banned due to Covid-19 restrictions.

So, how did the woman get caught out?

Crucial to unravelling the case was investigators noticing a pattern that the patient’s health would improve when he was admitted to intensive care – where he wasn’t allowed relatives to visit – however, would worsen when he was placed back in a normal ward.

Indeed, this led to the damning suspicion that foul play was in the air.

While tests were carried out on the victim to determine the reasons for his illness, doctors at the hospital were not able to establish the causes that kept him in hospital.

Instead, the man’s health continued to deteriorate against a subsequent stint of chronic diarrhoea that lasted seven months and was so severe that medics could not improve his state.

Sadly, the man eventually perished.

In the aftermath of the patient’s death, however, it was discovered by relatives that £75,000 of his savings had gone missing from his account.

The man’s relatives immediately contacted authorities to advise them of the finding.

From here, what detectives were able to work out was that the woman withdrew more than £50,000 from her partner’s bank account, then spent another £25,000 using his debit and credit cards.

In addition to this, several invoices for purchases of medicines to treat constipation made in pharmacies during the months of the victim’s illness were also unearthed and seized.

As it turns out, for a year, the man’s partner had bought and administered the large quantities of laxatives.

Over the long period of time, these led to persistent diarrhoea, which in turn brought about muscle weakness, fatigue and changes in heart functioning – all of which resulted in his eventual demise.

Ultimately, the woman was arrested by National Police over the matter.

Along with being held in relation to using poison to endanger her partner’s life, she was also investigated on suspicion of misappropriation and fraud. 

What is Laxative Abuse?

“Laxative abuse” is used to refer to ongoing and repeated laxative use to get rid of consumed food, purge calories, lose weight, feel thin or empty.

Behind this form of substance abuse is the idea that laxatives move food more rapidly through the body so it can be cleared out before any calories or nutrients can be absorbed by the body.

Laxative abuse, which takes place when there is repeated, frequent use of laxatives, is considered a dangerous practice that can result in severe medical and physical consequences.

It can lead to the body being deprived of the minerals and electrolytes it requires for proper functioning of the nerves and muscles, and can cause serious intestinal harm, as well as damage to the kidneys, heart and liver.

In severe cases, much like the aforementioned case, it can be fatal.

Poisoning Offences in NSW

In NSW, it is a criminal offence to use poison to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm on another person.

The matter is taken very seriously by the courts, and as such, the offence attracts a heavy penalty of lengthy jail time.

Pursuant to section 39 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)there is a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail where:

  • A person administers, or causes another person to take, any poison, intoxicating substance or some sort of other destructive or noxious thing, and
  • the poison, intoxicating substance or other destructive of noxious thing endangers the life of, or inflicts grievous bodily harm on, the other person, and
  • the person acts with intention to injure, or knew the likelihood of injuring that person, but still did so.

Defences to the charge of using poison to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm to a person include necessity, mental illness, and duress.An alternative offence is under section 42 Crimes Act attracting up to 5 years imprisonment if you administer or cause a person to take poison, and you do so with the intention to either injure or cause distress or pain to the other person at the time of doing it.

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