St Annes nursing home attack: ‘I backed off and screamed’ - Care worker tells of terror at coming face-to-face with intruder

Left, police at the scene on Sunday and, right, carer Liz Hitchen, who said she disturbed the black-clad intruder as they allegedly sexually attacked a resident at the New Thursby Care Home
Left, police at the scene on Sunday and, right, carer Liz Hitchen, who said she disturbed the black-clad intruder as they allegedly sexually attacked a resident at the New Thursby Care Home
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A nursing home worker has told of her horror when she came face to face with an intruder in a resident’s room.

Her early hours discovery at the New Thursby nursing home, in St Annes, sparked a major investigation and manhunt, which led to a teenager being arrested on suspicion of rape.

At first, Liz Hitchen, 39, said she thought her eyes were playing tricks on her.

She was carrying out hourly checks at the home, on Clifton Drive North, when she disturbed a person clad all in black – who then fled through the window.

She said: “They turned and looked at me very slowly. We both looked at each other for a long while. I backed out the door and let out a massive scream that came from deep down.”

Detectives appealed for the public’s help in catching the intruder before a 16-year-old boy from Blackpool was arrested on suspicion of rape and burglary on Wednesday night.

He was still in custody yesterday.

Miss Hitchen, who has worked at the home for five years, said she at around 4.50am on Sunday she went to check on the victim.

She said: “I stood there at the door and thought, ‘Why are they moving?’ Then I thought it was my eyes playing tricks on me.

“Then I thought, ‘Or there’s someone behind their bed.’ Then I realised.”

Miss Hitchen ran for help from her colleagues – with police arriving within eight minutes of being called.

But by then, the intruder had already fled through a ground floor window, which officers believe he used to get in, sparking a major manhunt.“They had helicopters, dogs, and drones,”

Miss Hitchen said. “It was horrible. I couldn’t get my head around it when I opened the door.

“With the person standing still, they thought I couldn’t see them because they were wearing all black.”

Forensics experts carried out a thorough investigation at the home, with the building taped off and tarpaulin over one of the windows on Sunday.

Police patrols were stepped up in the area, Det Insp Jamie Lillystone said, while people were warned not to leave their doors and windows unsecured.

Security was also stepped up by bosses at the nearby Clifton Hospital.

Det Insp Lillystone said yesterday: “First and foremost our thoughts remain with the victim and their family, who are being cared for by professionals and being supported by specialist officers.

“We have had a team of officers working tirelessly on this investigation since Sunday, and we have made an

arrest.

“However, our investigation is very much ongoing and we are continuing to appeal for information.

“If you know anything at all that could help with our inquiries, we need to hear from you.

“If you were in the area at around 5am on Sunday and saw anything suspicious, or have any CCTV or dash cam footage that may be useful, please contact us.”

Miss Hitchen said she has been offered counselling by police, adding: “People at the home don’t feel safe now. Even people that weren’t even on that shift were bawling their eyes out.

“I’m very scared now. I hear a bang or something at night and I go and check all my doors. I’m still furious about it.

“It still feels like a bad dream. The police have been absolutely brilliant at the home. The residents were scared too and they reassured them. I can’t fault them.”

Call 101 if you have information.