UK

Boss at mortuary abuse hospitals should be sacked, victim’s family says

Court artist sketch of David Fuller (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Court artist sketch of David Fuller (Elizabeth Cook/PA) Court artist sketch of David Fuller (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

A relative whose mother was a victim of necrophiliac killer David Fuller’s mortuary abuse said the hospital boss where he worked should be sacked.

An independent probe looking at how Fuller was able to offend for 15 years without being suspected or caught at hospitals where he worked exposed “serious failings” of management in a report released on Tuesday November 28.

The maintenance worker sexually abused the bodies of at least 101 women and girls aged between nine and 100 while employed at the now-closed Kent and Sussex Hospital and the Tunbridge Wells Hospital, in Pembury, between 2005 and 2020.

Family accounts detailed in the report share the reactions and impact on victims’ relatives.

One anonymous relative whose mother was a victim said: “Even though I love the NHS, I blame them for this. Well, that particular hospital I blame for this… They need to sack the CEO, as I can’t believe he’s still in the hospital.”

Another account, from a victim’s husband read: “(T)he staff of the NHS are fantastic. We all know that they’re doing a fantastic job with the resources that they’ve got.

“Don’t blame the foot soldiers, blame the generals. Blame the leaders. Blame the people who have put the procedures into place.”

The chief executive of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, Miles Scott, who took on the role in 2018 two years before Fuller was arrested, said in a statement he was “deeply sorry for the pain and anguish” suffered by the families of Fuller’s victims.

He said the vast majority of the report’s recommendations have been put in place, but others will be actioned “as quickly as possible.”

A few of the victim’s relatives said they were offered a call with Mr Scott and that it was “good to speak to him” but felt he “seemed quite lax about the whole thing”.

They added: “He admitted that the swipe card data had never been checked. And then tried to excuse that by saying how many staff there were in the hospital. That’s not good enough for me. That’s not good enough for anybody.”

Another person who spoke with Mr Scott said her contact with the trust was “useless”, and said their biggest problem was “holistic ‘lessons learnt’ and no-one is held accountable.”

A relative dubbed ‘F30’ also said the chief executive and the whole trust’s board “should have resigned.”

They went on: “The Secretary of State for Health… in my opinion, should have dismissed the whole lot… Was it his fault that Fuller carried out those crimes? No, of course it’s not.

“But he is responsible, as the top person, to make sure that the systems and the practices and the procedures within that trust are being adhered to.”

Unveiling the findings at a press conference in London, inquiry chairman Sir Jonathan Michael said Fuller’s victims and relatives were “repeatedly let down” by those at all levels of responsibility who needed to ensure their loved ones were appropriately cared for in the mortuary.

Sir Jonathan added there were “missed opportunities” to question Fuller’s work, such as routinely working beyond his contracted hours and carrying out tasks which should not have been done by him because of chronic back problems.

The Fuller inquiry also found that 79% of relatives they spoke to decided to keep the abuse secret, while nearly all of them (92%) described the harm to their physical and mental health.

Around 50% of families also described how Fuller tainted the memory of their loved ones and they could longer look at photographs or remember happier times.

The trust said it was not notified of any potential disciplinary offences or breaches of professional codes of conduct identified by the inquiry team but added: “We will be studying the report carefully to make our own assessment.”

In 2022, a government scheme was launched to allow family members of victims to receive compensation for the psychiatric trauma of Fuller’s crimes and financial losses.