Published: 22 July, 2010
by CHARLOTTE CHAMBERS
A PATHOLOGIST will not face a disciplinary hearing over his conclusion that one of “Camden Ripper” Anthony Hardy’s murder victims had died from natural causes.
Dr Freddy Patel, 63, was told on Friday that the case will not be added to a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing currently investigating four other post-mortems he conducted.
He determined in 2002 that Sally White, 38, a prostitute whose body was found in Hardy’s Camden Town council flat, had died as result of natural causes.
Hardy, who later confessed to murdering her, killed two other women after Ms White’s death.
At a fitness-to-practise hearing into the pathologist’s competence, which began last week, the panel decided Ms White’s case could not be included.
The hearing at the GMC building in Euston is scheduled to last 42 days.
After taking legal advice, panel chairman Richard Davies ruled that the case – referred to as case E – could not be heard as correct procedures had not been followed in its preparation.
Mr Davies, who is not a member of the GMC, the doctor’s regulating body, questioned why it had taken investigators five years to notify Dr Patel that they were looking through the case, during which time he had destroyed key documents.
Dr Patel’s barrister, Adrian Hopkins, accused the GMC of “sitting on their hands” and, after 2005, inexplicably putting the White case “on ice” while it continued to investigate the other charges.
Mr Davies said it would be “unfair” and “cause prejudice to Dr Patel” should the White case be heard.
The delay had “amounted to an abuse of process”. Dr Patel claimed he shredded documents in 2007-8 that would have been part of the evidence.
During the discussion over whether the case should be heard, Dr Patel described for the first time how he learned Hardy had pleaded guilty to Ms White’s murder.
Asked what went through his mind as he sat outside the Old Bailey courtroom, ready to present his post-mortem report, he said: “I was informed, to everybody’s surprise, that he pleaded guilty.” GMC barrister Simon Jackson QC replied: “Presumably, no one was more surprised than you?”
Dr Patel said: “Yes, I was interested to find out what the cause of death was. We had done a thorough dissection of the neck and mouth. I could rule out suffocation and strangulation, and if that was the method I’d like to know.”
Dr Patel said he destroyed his paperwork because “it was not brought to my attention there was still concern about my cause of death”.
Asked “when and in what manner” he destroyed his notes on Ms White’s post-mortem, he said: “Around that period [2007-8] I would take stock of all my reports and the ones out of date would be shredded. I haven’t got them, so therefore they would have been shredded.
“I can’t give you a date and a time and a place. I can’t do that for any other documents either.”
A spokeswoman for the GMC said: “We acknowledge the comments made by the panel. We are unable to comment on the specifics of any ongoing cases to avoid prejudicing hearings.
“We will review the panel’s comments once the case is concluded.”
The hearing continued yesterday (Wednesday).