Man caught red-handed slapping severely disabled teen

Frail: Zak Rowlands
Frail: Zak Rowlands

A carer has admitted assaulting a severely disabled teen after being caught red-handed by relatives who placed a hidden camera in his room.

Frail Zak Rowlands, 19, who was born with a chromosome disorder, suffers autism and severe learning difficulties.

The youngster, who is the size of a 12-year-old due to his illness, was being cared for at Oxen Barn on Longmeanygate in Leyland, a specialist care home, when he was slapped.

Stanley Nkenka, 35, of St Ethelbert’s Avenue, Bolton, pleaded guilty to a charge of ill treating someone who lacked mental capacity in a hearing at Preston Crown Court.

Zak’s parents, Paul and Julie, both 47, grew suspicious when Zak, who cannot speak, started flinching when he was approached.

In May they placed a hidden camera in his room which recorded Nkenka slapping his victim across the back of the head twice as he was facing away from him.

He pushed Zak onto the bed and said if he got out of bed he would hit his head.

As Zak whimpered, Nkenka, who is around 6ft, walked back and said: ‘Do you want some more?’

Today Zak’s distraught family told the Evening Post they planned to campaign for all care homes to fit overt cameras to protect residents and staff.

Zak’s father Paul, a fireman from Nantwich, Cheshire, was close to tears as he described how the family had sent a year searching for a home they felt comfortable leaving Zak in.

He said: “We had no inkling of a problem before he was born. It was a difficult birth.

“The next day the doctors told us he was mentally and physically disabled and would not live past two.

“He defied them. He worked really hard. One medic told us he was the floppiest child they had seen.

“They told us he would never walk but he started walking when he was five.

“He has had many operations, a heart op when he was 18 months, spinal discs removed when he was 11.

“When he finished school we knew we had to find somewhere for him. His behaviour is challenging. His condition means he gets up between 1am and 3am.

“We spent 12 months finding the right place and went to some awful places.

“Oxen Barn ticked all the boxes and Zak is still there. He is very vulnerable because of his size. We felt Zak would not get hurt there from other residents.

“It is very hard as a father to put your child into a care home, you feel you have failed. But we knew it was the right decision.”

He smiled as he added: “Zak loves being read to, and loves music. He likes me playing my guitar. I wrote a song for him which I recorded for Julie’s birthday and when he heard it, he went really shy.

“He also likes playing with big cards.”

Zak goes home once a week to spend time with his sister Charlotte, 16, and brother Joe, nine.

In the week he goes to an equine centre, swimming and college.

Julie said: “Zak is one of a group of very vulnerable young people who rely on the honesty and integrity of those who care for them.

“The support from Lancashire Police has been excellent throughout, and it’s now time to move on.

“Today is another example as to why the government working together with the CQC should expedite the case of overt cameras in care homes with measures in place to protect the dignity of residents.”

Tubby Nkenka, wearing a navy jumper, sat with his arms folded as proceedings took place.

The married dad, who has a two month old baby, will next appear before Preston Crown Court to be sentenced on November 7.