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Published: 9 July 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Expert set to review pathologist’s findings

AN overseas expert may be asked to review the files of a seven-year-old murder case as part of an inquiry into how a pathologist concluded that a victim of Camden Ripper Anthony Hardy died from natural causes.
The New Journal can today (Thursday) reveal how post mortem findings that Sally White, 38, who was found dead in triple murderer Hardy’s Camden Town council flat in 2002, had died from a heart attack, will face new scrutiny in an investigation into pathologist Dr Freddy Patel.
For the first time, an independent expert could be granted unprecedented access to the case papers and documents which may answer the question of whether forensic clues were missed before Hardy killed again and again. It is part of a review being conducted by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), which recently began a sweeping survey of the work of pathologists across the country.
Ms White’s naked body, scarred by a bite mark to the thigh and a wound to the head, was found locked away in Hardy’s flat – detectives dropped their investigation after being told she had died of natural causes.
The shocking nature of the evidence has haunted residents on the College Place Estate where Hardy lived and relatives of his victims who have wondered whether he could have been stopped before he killed two more women, Liz Valad and Bridgette Maclennan, at his flat in December 2002. Their severed limbs were found by a homeless man. Hardy was arrested, later confessing to three murders – including killing Ms White.
While the new probe into Dr Patel’s work will not be limited to his involvement in Ms White’s post mortem, it is a significant development in the way Hardy’s crimes have been handled.
Despite concerns that warning signs and clues were missed, appeals for a public inquiry into the case were repeatedly turned down by the Home Office. Even a High Court appeal from the relatives of Liz Valad was rejected. Instead, a panel of mental health chiefs met behind closed doors and limited the scope of an inquiry into the care he received.
Dr Patel was not called to give evidence but his history of work is now under the microscope.
As the New Journal revealed last week, Dr Patel was last month suspended from a government list of approved Home Office pathologists while the NPIA review his work.
The New Journal understands that investigators are considering hiring a foreign pathologist to help with the review because they feel someone from abroad can be considered wholly independent of the close network of UK pathologists.
Dr Patel was suspended amid concern that he does not meet Home Office requirements to conduct forensic post mortems.
The NPIA began an investigation after a routine check revealed potential breaches in regulations and questions were then raised about why Dr Patel carried out the forensic post mortem in the case of Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller who died at the G20 protests in April.
In that case, a second opinion was sought after Dr Patel claimed Mr Tomlinson had died from a heart attack.
Dr Patel has declined to comment on the investigation but it was confirmed this week that it will include a fresh review of his contribution to Ms White’s inquest.
Dean Jones, the lead NPIA investigator, said: “What I’ll be looking for is evidence of competence in relation to Sally White’s post mortem – both in his (Dr Patel’s) favour and against him.”
Mr Jones decided to review the case after joining the NPIA in February and “thought we should look at it”.
Police complained about Dr Patel’s work to the Home Office in 2004. A Home Office spokesman said: “The concerns were investigated by the Scientific Standards Committee of the Board which determined in September 2004 that Dr Patel had not maintained the standards expected in three of the cases.”
Depending on what the NPIA’s inquiry finds, Dr Patel, a regular face at St Pancras Coroner’s Court, could face no further action, a warning or a disciplinary hearing.

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