By MARTIN JOHNSTON
Clement Matthews' mother wants the police to get to the truth about his death in Kingseat mental hospital 36 years ago.
Rebecca Matthews, 63, said yesterday that she first learned of the police re-opening their investigation into the 1968 death of 11-year-old Clement in last week's Weekend Herald.
While investigating some of the flood of complaints over treatment of ex-patients of former mental hospitals, the newspaper found that the police were looking again at Clement's case after another former Kingseat patient, Stephen Lindsay, said he saw a male nurse kick him in the back.
Ms Matthews, who has 17 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and works in a car-polish factory, wants to speak to the police.
She had planned to approach them on Thursday night, but was prevented from doing so by the death, from cancer, of another of her eight children, 43-year-old Caroline Matthews.
Yesterday at her Takanini home, where family photos cram the walls, Rebecca Matthews told, with an occasional tear, of never understanding why her first-born was taken into a psychiatric hospital.
"He was a good boy ... just like just like any other 5-year-old'
He caught tuberculosis around the time he started school, was taken to Auckland Hospital and then the Wilson Home in Takapuna for children with disabilities.
He went home for a time, to the house where Ms Matthews still lives, before becoming sick again and returning to Auckland Hospital and then, in 1965, Kingseat. He went to Mangere psychopaedic hospital and in 1966 returned to Kingseat. A coroner found he died of pneumonia.
"He wasn't mental or anything," said Ms Matthews. "He just had TB-meningitis."
This is when tuberculosis bacteria inflame the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The bugs earlier infected his hip, according to Kingseat records, which also described Clement as being mentally subnormal, with disturbed behaviour and an aggressive manner.
Ms Matthews, who is divorced, repeated that her son was "not mental" at any time.
"It was all those drugs they were piling in him."
She also blamed the medication for what the hospital called Clement's "gross obesity".
Clement behaved well at home. The problems occurred in hospital, where he was locked into a ward with elderly patients, Ms Matthews said.
She thought her son was well-treated at Kingseat and was surprised by Mr Lindsay's allegations.
Ms Matthews said she was called by Kingseat staff after Clement's death.
His body, after undergoing a post-mortem, was taken to their home in Takanini before being buried at a Maori cemetery in Mangere.
"I've started to think about it again - when he was lying in bed and all that. But I didn't see any bruises or anything on him."
When asked if anything had made her suspicious at the time, she said: "No, just that they were drugging him up all the time."
Ex-patients who were put into mental hospitals in the 1960s and 1970s have continued to come forward this week alleging mistreatment. They follow nearly 200 people, mostly aged 8 to 16 at the time of hospital treatment, who have lodged complaints with Wellington lawyers whose request for an inquiry is being considered by the Government.
Their allegations include beatings and sexual assault by staff and patients, inappropriate use of electric-shock therapy and drugs such as paraldehyde as punishment, and excessive use of other drugs and solitary confinement.
The claims initially centred on Porirua Hospital but now encompass most of the former asylums, including Oakley, Kingseat, Tokanui and Lake Alice hospitals.
By MARTIN JOHNSTON