Senior found guilty of sexually assaulting 3 nursing home residents

An 81-year-old former volunteer at the Fundy Nursing Home in Blacks Harbour has been found guilty of sexually assaulting three women who used to live there.

Eric Watson, 81, convicted of assaulting 3 people between 2010 and May 2016

Eric Watson, 81, enters the Saint John Law Courts on Friday to hear the verdict in his sexual assault trial. He was tried on four charges of sexual assault. (Brian Chisholm/CBC )

An 81-year-old former volunteer at the Fundy Nursing Home in Blacks Harbour has been found guilty of sexually assaulting three women who used to live there.

Eric Watson left the Saint John courthouse Friday on an undertaking and will return for sentencing March 28. 

Provincial court Judge Henrik Tonning said he believed the evidence of the Crown witnesses, including a registered nurse and a licensed practical nurse.

On three of the four counts of sexual assault against Watson, the Crown was able to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Nurses testified they had seen Watson touching the breasts of female residents.

One nurse said she had a bad feeling about Watson.

All four complainants, whose identities are protected under a publication ban, have died.

The complaints date from between 2010 and May 2016, when the RCMP got involved.

Tonning said he believed the testimony from nursing staff that the complainants suffered from dementia or an incapacity to communicate.

Two were described as totally dependent on staff at the home and incapable of speech.

'Incapable of consenting'

Tonning also believed that Watson's behaviour when confronted by staff was consistent with somebody who knew the complainants weren't consenting to the sexual touching.

"They were incapable of consenting to the activity in question," Tonning said.

"And he knew they couldn't consent."

At a previous hearing, Watson testified in his own defence, denying all the accusations against him.

Tonning said he didn't accept the denials.

The judge said there was no question in his mind that the witnesses testified to their best ability and were not mistaken in what they saw.

He said as time wore on, staff started paying more attention to Watson.

"They were looking for conduct, and they found it," he said.

"I do not accept the flat denial of everything."

Watson had said his original purpose in going to the home was to visit his father, who used to reside there.

When his father died, Watson said, he continued to visit as a volunteer.

Police didn't get involved until May 2016 after a nurse witnessed Watson in the room of a resident, where she caught him touching her breast.

It wasn't entirely clear how previous concerns raised about Watson's behaviour had been followed up by staff.

The court heard about a lack of "charting" such incidents.

Tonning said it was unfortunate that the court didn't hear from any medical experts about the mental capacities of the complainants at the time, but he said that wasn't fatal to its case.