Inquiry to include undertakers, local authority and private mortuaries, says Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid has announced the inquiry into David Fuller’s attacks on corpses while working for Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust, in Kent, will publish an interim report in three months and a final report next year.
The final report will look into the broader national picture while the interim report will look at actions taken by the trust.
Mr Javid also said the inquiry, which is being led by a former NHS hospital chief executive, Sir Jonathan Michael, “will go beyond just hospitals” and potentially look into local authority mortuaries, private mortuaries and other settings, such as undertakers.
The terms of reference for the review will be published “in due course”, he said.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the health secretary said: “It is a profoundly upsetting case that has involved distressing offences within the health service.
“The victims are not just those family members and friends who have been abused in this most horrific of ways. They are also those that are left behind.
“People who have already experienced such loss and now experience unimaginable pain and anger. They are victims too.
“Even as we look into what exactly happened, as the secretary of state for health and social care, I want to apologise to the friends and families of all the victims for the crimes that were perpetrated in the care of the NHS and for the hurt and suffering they are feeling.”
Fuller, aged 67, pleaded guilty on Thursday to the murders of two women, Wendy Knell, 25, and Caroline Pierce, 20, in two separate attacks in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in 1987. Detectives searching Fuller’s home found four million images of sexual abuse he had downloaded from the internet on computer hard drives.
They also found footage he had filmed of himself carrying out attacks on the bodies of women at the now-closed Kent and Sussex Hospital and the Tunbridge Wells Hospital, where he had worked since 1989.
Last week The Independent revealed NHS mortuaries have recorded 30 security breaches within the past five years. Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark called for the government’s inquiry to address worries about unauthorised access across NHS mortuaries.
He called on Mr Javid to do three things with the inquiry: to confirm victims’ families could give evidence about the impact of the crimes; to make public recommendations for the whole of the NHS based on its outcome; and to publish an assessment of the risk for other sectors where people have access to dead bodies.
Mr Clark also said: “It is important that the House understands the need for this – as well as brutally murdering two young women, Fuller raped the dead bodies of over 100 girls and women.”
Mr Javid said the inquiry would “absolutely” fulfil all three of Mr Clark’s requests.
The Human Tissue Authority, which regulates mortuaries, has been asked by the secretary of state to carry out an independent review of its guidelines.
NHS England has written to all NHS trusts asking them to review their mortuary access and post-mortem activities against current guidance from the Human Tissue Authority.
Trusts have also been asked to take extra steps and ensure they have effective CCTV, entry and access points are controlled with swipe access and appropriate DBS checks and risk assessments are being carried out.
NHS England will report the results directly to the health secretary, he said.