Monday, February 14, 2011

Woman dies after showering 20 hours a day

An elderly British couple have been arrested on suspicion of the manslaughter of their daughter who was so blighted by obsessive compulsive disorder she spent up to 20 hours a day in the shower. Samantha Hancox, 40, was found dead in an armchair at the home she had hardly left in 18 years for fear of coming into contact with germs. Her parents Ken and Marion Hancox dialled 999 but were later questioned for seven hours after being arrested and taken to a police station to be fingerprinted. A post mortem examination revealed their daughter, their only child, died of dehydration and a skin infection. Mr Hancox, 76, who has bone cancer, and his 77-year-old wife are on bail while further investigations take place into the death. They told yesterday how their daughter, a former law student, suffered from acute obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which left her a virtual recluse with a crippling phobia about germs. As the condition took hold, Hancox would wear socks on her hands which she scrubbed constantly. In her final years only her parents were allowed into the house to try to keep it germ-free.
The couple from Tipton, Sandwell, West Midlands, criticised the lack of help they were given from mental health and social services teams as they laid bare the severity of their daughter’s illness. Mrs Hancox, who is disabled and cannot walk, said: “Everything had to be wrapped up. When Ken went out shopping he had to change his clothes before he could come back in or walk around in his underwear. Sometimes she would even want us to burn the clothes. There was a fog in the house from her showering.”
She added: “How could they arrest us? We didn’t kill her, it was the OCD. She was our daughter and we loved her.
“We tried to get help. All these psychiatrists kept coming and all they did was assess her and went away. Occasionally she was admitted to hospital briefly, but nothing was ever done to really help her. We even wrote to Tony Blair when he was prime minister.” She said her daughter wanted to see a psychotherapist but was told the local primary care trust did not offer that service to patients. In her last five years Hancox’s state of mind had deteriorated so much that she refused to let any medical professional visit her at home, and was too scared to leave the house herself. Her parents, former factory workers, said their daughter began worrying about germs at 10 when her grandmother, Molly, died after being admitted to hospital. An aunt had died not long before from food poisoning.
At 14, she dropped out of school and was tutored at home. Three years later her phobia led her to leave college before completing a law course.
Her parents said in her last 18 years she left the house only once other than for a hospital appointment.

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