Diabetic woman ‘howling’ and ‘delirious’ before death at workshop, court told

A 71-year-old diabetic woman who had stopped taking her insulin at a workshop run by an alternative healer was “delirious” and “frothing at the mouth” before she died, a court has heard.

Danielle Carr-Gomm, died at Cleeve House in Seend, Wiltshire, where she was taking part in the event in October 2016 which promoted Paida Lajin therapy, which sees patients being slapped or slapping themselves repeatedly.

Hongchi Xiao, 61, of Cloudbreak, California, who was described as “Master Xiao” in the programme for the event, is on trial at Winchester Crown Court accused of the manslaughter by gross negligence of Mrs Carr-Gomm, from Lewes, East Sussex.

A chef at the retreat, Teresa Hayes, told jurors on Thursday that she heard crying coming from Mrs Carr-Gomm’s bedroom on the evening of October 18, and entered to see she was pale, sweating and drooling as she cried on the bed.

Court artist drawing of Hongchi Xiao appearing at Winchester Crown Court
Hongchi Xiao is accused of the manslaughter by gross negligence (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

“It was quite loud and it felt concerning, the cry was loud and it sounded like someone was in pain,” she said.

“I went to investigate, I opened the door just to check if everything was OK.

“She appeared very unwell, she was crying and sweating and she was drooling.”

Other women were in the room, including a person who she believed to be Xiao’s assistant, and Ms Hayes was assured she was looking after her.

Ms Hayes, who was 27 at the time of the workshop, said she was told Mrs Carr-Gomm needed water because she had been fasting, which was part of the programme, and that bread would be fetched for her to eat from the kitchen.

The following evening, Ms Hayes described how she saw the ill guest again and her condition was worse.

“She was much more distressed than the day before, her crying was louder. I was very concerned at that time,” she told the court.

“It was like she was howling in pain. She was still sweating and drooling and frothing at the mouth. She wasn’t coherent with her words, she sounded quite delirious.”

Ms Hayes said that she asked if she needed food, water or her insulin but Mrs Carr-Gomm “mumbled ‘no’” each time.

Ms Hayes also said she personally wanted to call an ambulance at the time, but added: “I didn’t feel it was my place, I was trying to trust what people were telling me who had more experience of this holistic healing method.”

Later that night, she described how Xiao asked her to prepare food for Mrs Carr-Gomm, and she brought up some mashed-up couscous which she handed to the alternative healer who was with the 71-year-old in her room.

Walking past the room again later that night, she said: “I could hear slapping noises, crying, yelling and just very loud painful noises like howling.

Winchester Crown Court
Hongchi Xiao was standing trial at Winchester Crown Court (Chris Ison/PA)

“The slapping noises sounded the same as the Paida slapping method that the attendees had been taking part in the entire time.”

Ms Hayes had described how from seeing the workshop in action she observed the group would slap themselves for about five to six hours a day, by cupping their hand and hitting different areas of their body “quite hard” until there were marks on the skin.

Jurors heard how participants explained to Ms Hayes it was a way to release toxins and illnesses out of your body.

She also observed on the first day of the fasting at the week-long workshop on October 17, Mrs Carr-Gomm told the group she was diabetic and had not taken insulin that day and she felt “fine” and “happy”.

Asked how Xiao responded, Ms Hayes said: “He said ‘well done’ and ‘that’s good’, he said that personally to her.”

In the early hours of October 20, Ms Hayes said there was an urgent knock at the bedroom she was sharing with one of the organisers, who was asked come quickly.

Ms Hayes told the court she went downstairs to Mrs Carr-Gomm’s room where she found her lying on a mattress on the bedroom floor.

“She was completely still, all the colour had drained from her face,” she said.

“At that time, I knew the minute I saw her that she had died.”

Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson KC had told jurors that no-one was “better placed” than the defendant to make sure Mrs Carr-Gomm received the medical care that could have saved her.

Charles Row KC, defending Xiao, who denies the charge, told the jury that the defendant denied having a duty of care over Mrs Carr-Gomm who he had made “absolutely clear” to that he was not medically trained.

He said that Xiao had told her not to suddenly stop taking her insulin.

The trial continues.