09/26/2019 - UK expert witness news: pathologist gives evidence in death by negligence trial

UK pathologist gives evidence in death by negligence trial

Two nurses who are jointly accused of causing the unlawful death of a patient on Crevichon Ward through gross negligence heard evidence from a Home Office-registered pathologist yesterday.

Lauren Ellis, 22, who had been diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder, and who had a long history of serious self-harm, died on the ward at The Oberlands Mental Health Centre in the early hours of 12 October 2017.

Miss Ellis was found strangled with a binding around her neck. A post-mortem examination carried out by Home Office-registered pathologist Dr Deborah Cook found she had died through ligature strangulation.

Rory McDermott, 32, and Naomi Prestidge, 31, deny the charge.
Expert witness for the defence, Guy Rutty, who appeared via video link, is a professor of forensic pathology at Leicester University. The court heard his background was extensive in the field and included having examined the remains of both King Richard III. And Pharaoh Tutankhamen

For Mr McDermott, Advocate Mark Dunster put it to Professor Rutty that when he had questioned Dr Cook about the time of death from when the ligature had been tightened as between two and six minutes, she had first said she could not rule that out and had then said it was a possibility. Counsel asked Professor Rutty whether he thought that was a possibility or a probability.

"Based on the literature that I have seen I would say it was a probability," said Professor Rutty.

Judge Russell Finch said Professor Rutty's evidence was not a pleasant subject matter but said it had to be heard. Anyone in the public gallery who did not wish to hear it was invited to leave the court.

Advocate Dunster asked if there would be any difference in time of the death between a hanging and ligature strangulation.

Professor Rutty said in his view there was not. The Home Office now encouraged pathologists not to estimate time of death in their reports.

The court has heard how the nurses failed to perform 6 of the usual checks in their duty on the deseased namely, every 15 minutes. One hour and 42 minutes had elapsed between the last check and the discovery of her death as a result of ligature strangulation. The checks were prescribed by Miss Ellis's psychiatrist Rahul Bhintade.

The last check was made at 01:00 BST and Ms Ellis' body was discovered at 02:42 BST.
The two nurses have admitted they were not busy during the period and CCTV footage of the ward showed the defendants mainly in the office.