Byline: ROS WYNNE-JONES and NICK WEBSTER
THE sickening catalogue of torture, abuse and neglect of up to a million pensioners makes horrific reading.
Nursing home patients crying out in pain because of rotting bed sores, freezing to death by an open window and having fingernails ripped out by a heartless carer are just some of the unbelievably cruel accounts of what's happening to the elderly today.
Vulnerable folk being abused by the very people who are paid to make sure their later years are comfortable and dignified.
Yet the plight of these victims is being ignored. And the hidden scandal has reached epidemic proportions - on a scale similar to the child abuse revelations of the 80s.
A Mirror probe uncovered the shocking treatment of pensioners in some care centres. Others were abused by relatives at home.
Campaign group Action on Elder Abuse believes the Government report last week that warned 500,000 pensioners were victims of cruelty or neglect, is too conservative.
Chief executive Gary FitzGerald said: "That only dealt with elderly people abused in their homes. If you add those in nursing homes, we fear the figure is closer to one million. Twenty years ago with child abuse no one wanted to believe it was happening and children went on being abused. Today, nobody wants to believe 80 to 90-year-olds are being abused, which allows it to go on.
"Everybody has heard of Victoria Climbie, the eight-year-old abused at the hands of her carers. But nobody knows Margaret Panting, a 78-year-old who died of hundreds of injuries including cigarette burns to her body.
"The only difference between the cases is 70 years." Margaret, of Sheffield, was tortured after moving in with her family to care for her grandchildren. An inquest heard it was "absolutely clear" she was abused. There was not enough evidence to charge her relatives.
AEA said care home staff often lack the training to spot cruelty.
Last week, the Commons Health Select Committee revealed that 1.4 million care workers are unregistered.
In a damning report it also said many old people were too frightened, too embarrassed or unable to report cruelty or neglect.
Now, backed by the Mirror, Mr FitzGerald has pledged to help end the scandal.
He will add every signature sent in by readers on the coupon below to a petition which he will then take to Downing Street.
MARGARET BARR, 85
TERRIFIED widow Margaret had her fingernails ripped out by a cruel nursing home carer.
The great-grandmother - affectionately known as Peggy to her friends - was left in a state of shock, whimpering and unable to explain what had happened.
She developed pneumonia and died two weeks later.
Assistant care worker Lisa Fitzpatrick, 22, from the Alder Grange nursing home in Liverpool was later found guilty of grievous bodily harm.
After the case Peggy's daughter, Doreen Hengler, compared her 85-year-old mother's horrific ordeal to the treatment of Japanese prisoners of war.
PATRICIA HOLT, 72
THE Alzheimer's disease sufferer often consumed other residents' food and drink.
But staff at Plas Rhosnesni nursing home in Wrexham left out cleaning liquid in a water jug - which she drank, probably mistaking it for juice.
She died of pneumonia six days later. The home's owners admit failing in their duty and now await sentence.
JOAN WALTERS, 80
NURSING home trio Joan, Eileen Risebro, 80, and Annie Robinson, 87, died after being given dishwasher fluid to drink instead of blackcurrant juice.
The fatal mistake came to light after the pensioners started to cough and vomit after lunch.
Instead of Ribena, a dishwasher fluid from a five-litre container of Rinse Aid had been used to prepare their drinks at the Lady Astor Court Nursing Home in Slough, Berks. …