Bristol

Santander refunds withdrawals from Virginia Owen's account

Virginia Owen shortly before she died - photograph used with permission of family
Image caption Mrs Owen died in hospital on 12 October

A bank has repaid £13,000 to the family of a woman who died in the Dominican Republic.

The family of Virginia Owen, 48, from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, claim neglect contributed to her death but her boyfriend has denied wrongdoing.

The BBC found several withdrawals were made from her bank account in the run up to her death. Santander bank has now agreed to refund the money.

Mrs Owen was in an emaciated state when she died last October.

A post-mortem examination revealed Mrs Owen had cancer of the liver but her family said the examination also revealed she had starved to death.

'Life in paradise'

Mrs Owen, who moved to the Caribbean in 2006 following a divorce, took savings of about £200,000 with her.

An investigation by BBC Inside Out West has uncovered Mrs Owen's bank statements, showing withdrawals of about £270 were made two or three times a week in the months leading up to her death.

Image caption Mrs Owen, pictured with her brother Daniel, moved to the Dominican Republic to start a new life

The BBC passed the statements to Santander bank, which investigated the withdrawals and agreed to refund Mrs Owen's family £13,235.97.

In a statement, the bank said: "Following a thorough investigation of this case, it's clear that Mrs Owen would not have been in a position to authorise the transactions made on her account in the period leading up to her death and we fully appreciate the family's concerns."

Mrs Owen's Swedish boyfriend Hans Michel Magnusson told friends he had not arranged for her to be taken to hospital because the couple did not have enough money.

Santander spotted an attempt to withdraw cash from Mrs Owen's account the day after she died, but her family had by then frozen the account.

On the same day Virginia's brother Daniel Walkley and her friend Sylvia Cheal said they received a call from Mr Magnusson.

Ms Cheal said: "I was sitting with Dan.. and when he came off the phone he said oh Michel came on the phone and was shouting and screaming to say 'you or your mother have stopped the money coming through'."

'Absolutely treatable'

Mr Magnusson told the BBC that Mrs Owen had asked him to withdraw money from her account.

"In the last couple of weeks or two weeks she asked me to go out and get the money because she was not feeling good," he said.

Mrs Owen's parents Rosemary and John Walkley have recently received the official medical report into the death, compiled by two senior doctors who attended to her on the day she died.

Image caption Mrs Owen's parents have seen a report compiled by two doctors who saw her on the day she died

Mrs Walkley said: "She had signs of malnourishment, she had ulcers, she was dehydrated, she was in a very bad condition actually.

"She had so many things that were treatable, absolutely treatable.

"She had problems with her liver as well. The liver was very bad but even that could have been coped with in England, or in a hospital."

Mrs Owen's parents want to know why Mr Magnusson did not arrange medical help until five days before her death, when he called a local GP.

The GP who treated Mrs Owen in the five days before she died told the BBC that before he was called, she had received no medical attention.

Daniel Walkley said when he saw Mrs Owen on 12 October, she was in an emaciated state. He said he called an ambulance and was taken to hospital, where she died.

'Natural causes'

Mr Magnusson told the BBC he denied that he had neglected Mrs Owen.

He said the allegations of neglect had been spread by Mrs Owen's family who "just want to be in the press".

"She was sick for over two years," he said.

"She refused to go to the doctor. I spoke to the doctor every day."

Mr Magnusson was questioned by police in the Dominican Republic but no action was taken.

Doctors concluded Mrs Owen had died of natural causes.

Mrs Owen's parents have now met Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose to see if the case can be re-examined in light of the Santander bank investigation and the official medical report.

Mr Penrose has written to the Foreign Secretary William Hague to see if he is able to help.

A BBC investigation into Virginia Owen's death will be shown on Inside Out on BBC One in the West and South of England on Monday 21 February at 1930 GMT.

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