true crime

The night nurse who killed two women "had a pathological hatred of the elderly."

They are the haunting words of a family who has a loved one so wrongfully stripped from you.

“Nurses are beautiful, loving and nurturing.”

But these people, who are so carefully trusted to care for our most vulnerable, aren’t meant to take their lives.

Channel 7’s Sunday Night has examined the heinous crimes of a former Ballina-based nurse, Megan Haines — and how she attempted to get away with the “perfect” murder.

Haines was said to have a “pathological” hatred of elderly people, but also managed to charm her patients into trust.

In 2014, the nurse took the lives of two elderly women — Marie Darragh, 82, and Isabella Spencer, 77 — by administering them with lethal doses of insulin.

Megan Haines. Image via Channel 7.

On Sunday Night, members of Marie Darragh's family remembered her as the life of the party.

"She drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney, swore like a trouper, and danced like there was no tomorrow," one said. Darragh was a mother to three beautiful children and a great-grandmother.

Living just two rooms away from Darragh was Isabella Spencer, whose only family was her younger brother, Don.

"We were very close, Isabella and myself... she was the only aunty we had on our side," Don says.

Darragh and Spencer were both living in St Andrews Village nursing home in Ballina when Haines walked into their rooms and injected them with lethal doses of insulin. Neither of the women were diabetic.

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Just the day before, Marie Darragh's daughter, Jan, had been visiting her mother.

"I said, 'I'll be here in the morning with pancakes for your pancakes... she loved them. So I kissed her goodbye," Jan's voice wobbles and she tries to get out the words. "I said, 'I love you, mum.'"

Jan left believing she was going to be seeing her mum the next morning, hands filled with pancakes.

Marie Darragh with her family. Image via Channel 7.

But at 10:15 pm, Haines began her night shift. At 11 pm, her boss informed her she had received complaints from three residents, one of them being Spencer and the other, Darragh.

Between midnight at 1am, she was left alone in the ward where she entered the locked medication room. Stolen from there was two vials of insulin.

Haines proceeded to inject Darragh and Spencer with levels of insulin that would kill them.

"At 20 to seven in the morning, I received a phone call, telling me they couldn't get any response from Mum. They thought she'd had a massive stroke," Jan said.

"I walked in and saw Mummy trying to breathe. I screamed at her, 'Mummy, Mummy, wake up. Wake up, Mummy! And I couldn't wake her up."

"I held her in my arms and just rocked her," her granddaughter said.

"I just told her, 'We're all here, Nanny. We love you.'"

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Image via Channel 7.

Don, Spencer's brother, was also called in the morning and told his sister had a stroke.

By the end of that day, police had begun investigating a double murder.

Multiple pieces of evidence pointed to Haines during the investigation. Firstly, she was the only person who had access to the bottles of insulin. Secondly, during a phone call police had tapped, Haines revealed both women were given the "wrong medication".

In addition to this, another resident — the third one who had lodged a complaint against Haines — woke during the same night to find the nurse acting "suspiciously" around her bedside.

During the trial, evidence was provided that Haines had boasted to a former partner about being able to kill someone undetected with insulin.

Despite claiming her innocence the whole way, she was found guilty of murdering the women.

Even though it was two years ago Haines appeared in court for murder, this isn't the beginning of the story. In fact, she had been in and out of the medical profession with a dangerous history.

Rewind to 2008 when two different women were found dead just weeks apart in medical facilities. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, someone had crept into their rooms in the middle of the night and overdosed them in insulin.

The only nurse around that night was Haines.

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Image via Channel 7.

Jewellery of theirs had been stolen, and three days after their deaths, Haines' house was searched. None of their belongings was found, only a small amount of drugs.

At the time, Haines couldn't be linked to either death, and so no charges were pressed.

In 2002, one of her patients was rushed to hospital with renal failure, and when asked to explain her role, she resigned.

In 2005, she was complained five times at Box Hill Hospital for failing to care for a patient and pushing a person over. In 2007, she allegedly assaulted a patient. During this period, she was stripped of her nursing registration, and after numerous attempts to be reinstated, she was successful in 2012.

What is on the lips of both families, still suffering to this day, is how Haines got away with her behaviour in the past and was still a nurse to that day. And, the biggest question of all: was this the first time she had killed a patient?

"She had this attitude, and it was that the elderly were a complete waste of space and a burden on society, and really they should be laid to rest earlier," one former colleague told Sunday Night.

When asked whether they knew of the complaints made about Haines before the murder, family members were completely shocked.

"I was furious," one said. "Even to this day, I am furious."

Spencer's brother, Don, shares the equal disbelief and fury.

"When you put someone is a nursing home... you expect them to stay there for their natural life,  not some female who wants to play God."

Haines is going to be sentenced for their murders in December.

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