Emma-Jane Kurtz jailed after mum is found dead due to neglect

Lawyer specialising in the rights of the elderly is jailed after leaving her own 79-year-old mother to die in ‘horrifying’ squalor covered in urine and faeces

A solicitor specialising in fighting for vulnerable and elderly clients who neglected her own mother and let her die covered in urine and faeces was jailed for more than two years today.

Cecily Kurtz’s body was found emaciated and slumped on a sofa surrounded by filth and squalor in a room which stank of bodily waste.

Lawyer Emma-Jane Kurtz has been jailed

Her 41-year-old lawyer daughter, Emma-Jane Kurtz, had denied not getting her mother medical attention or fulfilling her needs and wilfully neglecting the 79-year-old.

However, a jury took just seven hours and four minutes to convict her by a 10-1 majority.

Kurtz, who also cared for her father, Alan, sat in the glass fronted dock and bowed her head as Judge Peter Ross jailed her for two-and-a-half-years, saying she had metaphorically and literally closed the door on her mother.

He said the case involved weeks and months of the most severe neglect where a woman had been left to rot in her own faeces and urine.

‘The state of Cecily Kurtz’s body looked like a photographed scene from the end of the Second World War in one of the concentration camps,’ he said.

‘She was emaciated and in addition to that, her hands and her feet and her face were engrained with faeces and she had urine burns on her upper legs and lower back. The defendant accepted she had been in those clothes for years.

The court heard that had her daughter intervened elderly Cecily Kurtz would have survived 

 ‘Her underwear which had once been white was by now a deep mahogany brown. Her trousers came apart when the paramedics sought to pull Cecily Kurtz onto the floor.’

The court heard the pensioner would have probably survived if her daughter had called for help earlier as she would have been admitted to hospital.

Judge Ross added: ‘This is truly a tragic case on so many levels and I want to make it clear I am not sentencing for the death of Cecily Kurtz but for the protracted period of wilful neglect, in my view, of the closing of the door on a severely mentally ill woman and the complete ignoring of her needs.’

Kurtz’ QC told the court her client had been having weekly therapy and had mild autism

Defending her, Clare Wade QC, said Kurtz had since had weekly therapy after being diagnosed with mild autism and suffering from emotional deprivation and abuse due to her unusual upbringing caused by her mother’s obsessive compulsive disorder and rule over the family home that led to her father being banned from the kitchen.

Referring to a psychiatrist’s assessment she said: ‘This defendant would have been taken into care in different circumstances where they assumed wrongly the family could cope with the situation of the mental health problems of the mother. She wasn’t and she was left to grow up in an environment that was deeply damaging.’

Kurtz has a mild form of autism and has inherited traits from her mother in regards to self-neglect and non-functional compulsions, Miss Wade argued.

The judge sentenced for willful neglect

‘The reality is, the medical evidence in this case makes it clear she was unable in the circumstances to grow up and develop to be able to formulate independent opinions and inherited traits such as avoidance,’ she told Judge Ross.

She added: ‘These traits and diagnoses of mild autism are a double whammy to be able to stand up to the conflicting views of her parents.’

Kurtz was working as a volunteer at a Sue Ryder charity since her conviction after she was suspended by her firm to work as a solicitor, the court heard.

The jury at Oxford Crown Court heard during the two-week trial that Cecily’s husband would have faced charges over his wife’s death but because of extensive medical problems, the decision had been taken not to pursue the matter.

Oliver Saxby QC, prosecuting, told the jury of the horrifying neglect that beggared belief in the home Kurtz shared with her parents.

‘Putting it brutally but accurately, this defendant allowed her mother to die in her own urine and faeces,’ he said.

‘It is no answer to say that her mother did not want help, that she always obeyed her mother, that there was nothing she could do.

‘Way before the paramedic found her dead in the shocking state she was in, it must have been blindingly obvious to her that she needed assistance.’

A Home Office pathologist who carried out a post-mortem examination described Cecily as being emaciated.

Cecily’s body was discovered on July 2, 2014, after her daughter called paramedics who found her in the squalid house in Blackwater, Didcot, Oxon.

The court heard that Kurtz and her father had organised an appointment for Cecily at the doctors for the day after she was found dead.

When asked why she had not pursued medical help further, Kurtz said: ‘I didn’t want to want to disobey her or upset her. I didn’t want to force her to do something she didn’t want to do.

‘She had previously been admitted to Fairmile psychiatric hospital, which she hated. She saw one woman try to strangle herself with her own bra in front of her eyes.’

The court went on to hear a frantic 999 call made by Kurtz on the night of July 2, 2014 when her mother was found not breathing on the sitting room sofa.

Kurtz told operators while an ambulance was despatched: ‘She has been very, very ill for some time.’

Paramedic Mark Lund who was the first emergency service personnel at the home, described Cecily’s body as being ‘in a state of considerable neglect.’

The jury was told Cecily had suffered from bipolar depression and obsessive compulsive disorder and her death was documented as a pulmonary thrombo-embolism – a blood clot which developed in her leg and moved to her lungs which blocked the pulmonary artery.

Kurtz, from Didcot, Oxon., was a qualified solicitor, the court heard, who was working for the law firm in Reading, Berkshire. On her profile it states she specialises in ‘caring for and advising the elderly.’

She was full member of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) and completed the Older Client Care in Practice (OCCP) Award, an externally accredited award which focuses on specialist client care skills to advise and support older and vulnerable clients, the website states


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