A reclusive “selfish” pensioner, whose dying wife was found sitting covered in maggots and flies surrounded by bags of stinking rubbish, was today jailed for eight years.
Richard Wallach claimed that he had not known his 61-year-old wife Valerie had various agonising deep pressure sores and injuries and “assumed she was all right”.
But a court heard that she had been left sitting helplessly in a urine and faeces-soiled leather chair in the bay window of their home in agony for weeks or months and he had simply ignored it.
After her plight was finally discovered the odour in the house was described as “horrendous” by paramedics and fire fighters who had to fight their way through layers of rotting rubbish.
And she was found to be in a “shocking” condition with her skin grey and apparently rotting and with maggots stuck to her wounds.
Judge Neil Flewitt, QC, told the 67-year-old hoarder that it was clear from the evidence, “that you are self-obsessed by which I mean you are excessively preoccupied with your own life and circumstances and think only about yourself”.
He said a probation officer concluded he had a tendency to view things from the perspective of his own perceived needs and health issues at the expense of his wife’s needs and deteriorating health issues.
“In other words you are a thoroughly selfish man and in this instance your selfishness led directly to the death of your wife.”
A jury at Liverpool Crown Court took just under three hours last month to unanimously find him guilty of gross neglect manslaughter.
Judge Flewitt told Wallach, who listened through a hearing loop but showed no reaction, that his breach of duty to his wife was “truly exceptionally bad and so reprehensible as to justify the conclusion that it amounted to gross negligence.
“Your neglect of your wife was extreme and led to her living the last few months of her life in appalling conditions.”
He pointed out that apart from a hoarding disorder the defendant has no other mental problems and he kept the rooms he used relatively clean and tidy.
“That leads me to the inescapable conclusion that you simply couldn’t be bothered to take the same care of your wife as you took of yourself.”
The judge added that he was sure the victim had been seriously ill and in severe pain for several weeks if not months and Wallach was aware of it “and simply ignored it.”
The mum-of-two, who had a history of osteoporosis-arthritis, obesity, agrophobia and depression, was rescued after Wallach finally went to the nearby Elms medical centre on August 24, 2017 saying she was “babbling”.
Shocked paramedics and firefighters had to fight their way through mountains of bags of rubbish, rotting food and faeces, to reach her. Fire fighters said “they had never seen a living human-being in such a poor condition,” said Richard Pratt, QC, prosecuting.
She showed no response until fire fighters managed to get her out of the chair when she screamed and it was found skin, blood and bodily fluids had been left behind.
When bags covering her legs were moved they were found to be sore, swollen and covered in a thick brown slime.
It had been suggested that the window might have to be removed to get her out of the house and Wallach objected as they were new and said there could be insurance implications.
It took staff at the Royal Liverpool Hospital 90 minutes to clean Mrs Wallach and her blackened teeth were so decayed that she was unable to speak and screamed in pain when staff tried to clean her mouth.
Her shabby dirty clothing only covered her top half and was described as being in an “appalling” state with her legs and body covered in faeces and she even had a Pot Noodle sachet stuck to her leg.
“The smell coming from her was overpowering.”
When a doctor told her husband that her prognosis was poor and she was likely to die that day Wallach responded by saying: “Thanks for letting me know but who is going to sort out my problem, I have been constipated for weeks.”
Her legs were severely ulcerated and she had the most serious type of ulcers on her buttocks, backs of her thighs and both heels which had taken weeks or months to have reached that level.
They were extremely painful as well as foul smelling and she was found to have overwhelming sepsis .
She died 19 days later on September 12, 2017 from advanced breast cancer, which had spread to her brain, spine and ribs - and which was only diagnosed on her admission to hospital - and multiple organ failure.
Wallach, who still lives in their mid-terraced home in Toxteth, had denied manslaughter. He had been receiving a carer’s allowance because of her infirmity but payments stopped about six weeks before her death.
The defendant was shown photographs of his wife in hospital and admitted the injuries were “very bad. I must have had a mental lapse or something. I do not recall those injuries at all.”
He said: “I looked after her to the best of my ability” and added, “I assumed she was all right.
"If she had been in pain she would have let me know and I would have done something about it”.
Kenneth Grant, defending, said today that Wallach spent his childhood in care, and after marrying his wife they lived “an unusual life style, perhaps melancholy and socially isolated.”
They had few if any friends, no family support network and no contact with their neighbours.
“He is a a senior citizen who lived a quiet, unassuming, uneventful, blameless life. He is now held criminally responsible for the death of his wife. If ever there was a sad, deeply depressing case this surely is it.
“Valerie Wallach did not deserve to die in hospital. She did not deserve to die having succumbed to her injuries in the way the jury found he permitted,” said Mr Grant.