Fake ‘doctor’ and ‘Dangerous fantasist’ Michael Ward jailed for reckless endangerment and assault

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Michael Ward
Michael Ward

A WOMAN is facing death from bladder cancer because her ex-fiancé told her he was a doctor who could cure her.

Michael Ward was jailed for five years yesterday after the court heard chilling details of how he ‘operated’ on his victim twice – in her own living room.

The ‘pathological liar and a dangerous fantasist’ had masqueraded as a high-flying medic – but he had no medical qualifications. His former fiancée remained undiagnosed for up to ten weeks because of his lies. Her potentially fatal tumour was finally discovered a week after he operated on her.

And the woman told how she believes Ward had allowed the court case to drag on because he thought she would be too ill – or even dead – by the time the trial came around. The gravely ill woman – who has not had a relationship since her ordeal – said she fought the case to stop 32-year-old Ward, from Co. Cork, from wrecking another life.

She said: ‘The only reason I have come this far and endured another three years of constant reminders is the thought that I could stop something like this happening to another woman.’

Last week, Ward pleaded guilty on day four of his trial to recklessly endangering her by masquerading as a doctor and purporting to treat her between August and October 2006.

He also pleaded guilty to assaulting her causing her harm.

When the pair met in June 2006, the respectable-looking man, with an address at Grove Road in Little Island, claimed to work as a doctor at the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

It later emerged that he was not medically qualified in any way and had even given her a fake name.

Detective Garda Kevin Keys yesterday told the Central Criminal Court that Ward and the woman had ‘a brief intense relationship’ in 2006.

But she knew him as Michael O’Brien, a paediatrician and medical doctor at Dublin’s Mater Hospital. He was actually a secondyear law student at the time.

He said the woman had been getting medical treatment for an undiagnosed condition and in August 2006 she told Ward’s about her problem.

He told her that her own doctors ‘did not have a clue’ and he ‘undertook the clinical management of her condition’.

He took daily urine samples, which he claimed were analysed by a lady called ‘Maria’ in the laboratories in the Mater Hospital, and then told her that a fictitious doctor – ‘Dr Harper’ – had diagnosed her as having an abscess on her bladder .

Ward prescribed antibiotics and specially prepared compounds before – on two days in October – he made her lie down on an air mattress for three hours, when he claimed he had inserted a ‘hypodermic syringe’ to both anaesthetise her and drain the abscess.

He had inserted a ‘plastic type object’ and left it there for several hours.

The object eventually ‘popped out’ and when the victim saw it, she thought i t looked like a syringe from a teeth whitening set.

He then ‘reinserted a new syringe’, the court heard . Detective Garda Keys said that during that two-day period Ward presented the woman with gifts of lingerie and a pair of boots which she later discovered had been bought with her own Laser card.

She confronted him about the unauthorised payments but he denied all knowledge. She went to the Mater Hospital a few days later to ask for Ward but discovered that he never worked there. Staff at the hospital made a complaint to the gardaí – and the woman was immediately referred to accident and emergency.

Her consulting doctor at the time prepared a report for the sen-tenchearing, in which he stated that he had no doubt that ‘by delaying appropriate medical treatment’ Ward had caused the woman serious harm.

He said the tumour was allowed to grow unchecked when it could have been treated.

His deceit was uncovered in mid-October, 2006, a week after the couple got engaged.

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was later diagnosed with a life-threatening and rare form of cancer which had gone untreated for eight to ten weeks after Ward ‘undertook the clinical management of her condition’.

The victim had the tumour removed on November 11, 2006, three weeks after she discovered that Ward had lied to her.

She remains gravely ill. The court heard Ward also deceived her about the death of his father – who is alive and works as a laboratory technician – as they were about to go on a mini-break to Rome after their engagement. And he also cancelled a trip to the U. S. at the last minute for ‘an emergency surgery’.

Ward was arrested in February 2007 and he told gardaí that the allegations were ‘frivolous’. He added ‘I have no comment’.

Detective Garda Keys read from a victim impact statement, that the woman felt Ward had deliberately used ‘stalling tactics’ throughout the case because she believed he wanted her to be either ‘too sick or no longer a l i v e to t e s t i f y i n the case’.

She said there was a strong possibility that she would not have been alive to see the case to completion – but she endured it because she thought by doing so she could prevent this from happening to ‘some-one’s daughter or sister’. The woman said she had been encouraged by both family and friends to concentrate on her recovery rather than the case – but she felt she had to pursue it.

She said that Ward showed no remorse and allowed her to take the stand ‘knowing as he did the truth of everything’, and knowing how ill she was. She said that after three years and four days into the trial he eventually pleaded guilty.

Detective Garda Keys said the woman described how she was too ‘consumed and devastated’ by the way Ward had deceived and manipulate her to have the strength to deal with her illness when she was first diagnosed.  She said his actions ‘still take a toll on me’.

The garda said that she described Ward’s actions as a ‘brutal deceit’ that has resulted in her ‘losing my belief in the inherent goodness in people’ – but she hoped in time that she ‘could regain the trust I used to have’.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton described the case ‘as deeply sad’ and jailed Ward, of Little Island, Co. Cork, for six years – but he suspended the final year of the sentence on the condition that Ward keep the peace and be of good behaviour.

The judge said: ‘He was able to charm her into a relationship which was of no benefit to her.’

He added that the woman’s illness had been confusing for a long time and people in such situations would search around for help.

He did not accept that Ward had been in love with the woman . He told the court: ‘You do not deal with love through manipulation – but rather with the truth, and that is the basis for any really stable relationship.’

He added that he could not ignore the fact that by treating her with this ‘ridiculous scheme’ Ward knew he was limiting her chances of recovering from whatever illness she may have had.

He said that Ward had ‘presented himself as a high-flying doctor’ and the woman had put her trust in him which was ‘badly betrayed’.

‘I am not impressed that he pleaded not guilty, leaving her in a position to give evidence in what he knew to be the truth when she was gravely ill.’

He commended the victim on ‘her enormous courage in discussing private matters in a public forum’ and noted that her motivation had been to stop something like this happening to any other woman.

He said that it was hard to think of ‘a worse betrayal and endangering of someone’s life, even considering that it was part of a fantasy for him’.

But Patrick McEntee SC, defending, said it was ‘an extremely sad case’ and he had ‘express instructions from my client to apologise fully for the distress, pain and suffering’ that Ward had caused to the victim.

He asked Mr Justice Charleton to accept that Ward was ‘a seriously conflicted man who has problems with telling the truth and was sucked into a world of fantasy, a fantasy of being a doctor’.

He added that Ward ‘did not know and could not have known that the victim had cancer at the time and that while his interference allowed the disease to take some steps forward, he did not know that was happening.

‘He made an irresponsible decision, one he had no right to make and one that he never should have. He told lies but there was nothing in it for him.

‘There was no suggestion that he got sexual gratification for it. ‘He did a serious thing and he must be punished for it. If only to stop people masquerading as doctors,’ Mr McEntee said.

He then read from a letter from Ward’s mother, in which she described her boy as ‘a model son’ who had always been good to her, her husband, her daughter and grandson.

She said Ward acted as a father-type figure to his nephew, ringing him to check his homework was done and taking him to the cinema at the weekend.

She said the whole family was devastated and it was her worst nightmare that her only son was before the court .

He was a man she described as ‘not a bad person’ and someone who had always been a great source of pride for her.