23 Aug 2012

Tomlinson pathologist struck off after years of blunders

The pathologist who wrongly said Ian Tomlinson, who died in the 2009 G20 protests after being pushed to the ground by a police officer, had died of a heart attack is struck off.

Dr Freddy Patel, who has a history of post-mortem mistakes and scandals, was banned from practising as a doctor by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

The ruling is the final nail in the coffin for the career of the Dr Patel, who also botched the post-mortem of the first victim of the Camden Ripper, Anthony Hardy, who then went on to murder two more women (see box, below).

“A deep-seated attitudinal problem

Patel had ruled in his post-mortem that newspaper seller Tomlinson had died from a heart attack at the G20 protest in 2009. Video footage of Tomlinson being pushed to the ground by PC Simon Harwood later raised questions about that verdict.

We are pleased that he will not be able to put any more families through the ordeal he caused us, but the damage he has done can’t now be undone. – Julia Tomlinson

Two separate pathologists subsequently found Tomlinson had died from internal bleeding. PC Harwood was last month cleared of Tomlinson’s manslaughter.

The MPTS tribunal found Dr Patel guilty of misconduct in relation to the Tomlinson post-mortem, and said the pathologist had been misleading, dishonest and liable to bring his profession into disrepute.

“We aren’t surprised he has been struck off,” Tomlinson’s widow, Julia, said. “It is more of a surprise that he was able to work as a pathologist for so long and that he was selected to do the post mortem on Ian.

“We are pleased that he will not be able to put any more families through the ordeal he caused us, but the damage he has done can’t now be undone.”

Dr Freddy Patel

Attitudinal problem

Reverend Robert Lloyd-Richards, chairman of the tribunal panel, told Dr Patel: “Your rigid mind-set, illustrated by your inability to reflect on the case of Mr Tomlinson and your unwarranted confidence in your own abilities, does not convince this panel that it would be appropriate to impose conditions, even with the most stringent supervision, on your registration.

“The panel considers that you have a deep-seated attitudinal problem.”

Dr Patel was not at the tribunal, having been excused to look after his sick wife, but heard the verdict by conference call.

The history of Patel’s post-mortem mistakes stretches back to 2002, and he has now been disciplined in relation to five separate post-mortems.

A decade of post-mortem blunders

In the last two years Dr Patel has been disciplined in relation to four previous post-mortems – but was previously allowed to practise under certain restrictions.

Sally White

Dr Patel decided that prostitute Sally White, the first victim of Camden Ripper Hardy, had died of natural causes. The General Medical Council ruled that Patel had not properly taken into account the position and location of White’s body, in a locked room of a man recently arrested by police, the presence of blood on her clothing or the reason why there was a bucket of warm water located next to the body.

Five year old girl

Dr Patel also ruled failed to spot signs of abuse on the body of a five-year-old girl who died at her home in north London in 2002 from severe head injuries. Her mother was later jailed for cruelty in relation to the child’s death and her father was jailed for turning a blind eye to the abuse.

Two further failings

Dr Patel was also suspended in relation to two other cases between September 2022 and August 2004 – one in the case of a four-week-old baby and the other an elderly woman.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: “We welcome the decision by the MPTS that Dr Patel’s name should be removed from the medical register. This means he is no longer able to practise as a doctor in the UK.

“We asked for him to be removed from the register as the best way of protecting the public because his conduct fell far below the standards we expect of a doctor. We are therefore pleased by today’s outcome.”