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The professor, his sex parties and the £175,000 fraud

One of Britain’s most eminent pharmacists, Professor Charles Butler, has admitted fraudulently claiming almost £175,000 of public money for expenses to cover the cost of a non-existent assistant.

By Andrew Hough, and Gordon Rayner

Published: 7:00AM BST 29 Mar 2010

Charles Butler: The professor, his sex parties and the £175,000 fraudProf Butler, a married father-of-five, is facing jail at Southwark Crown Court in London after he earlier pleaded guilty to fraud and drugs possession charges.

Prof Butler, who was awarded an MBE in 2005 for services to the NHS, pretended he had to hire a locum to cover his absences at a pharmacy practice while he was working as an advisor to a health watchdog.

But police discovered that Prof Butler, an advisor to the Department of Health, had sold his practice years earlier.

During a raid on a flat he owns in Whitechapel, east London, officers also found drugs including cocaine, ecstasy, “crystal meth” and the date-rape drug GHB, which police believe were used during sex parties hosted by the 64-year-old.

Prof Butler, a married father-of-five, is due to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court in London on Monday after he pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to fraud and possession of class A drugs. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

He is also now likely to face a disciplinary hearing at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, of which he is a fellow.

Prof Butler’s six-year scam was uncovered after police received a tip-off about the fraud from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), an independent body for which Butler had been working as a freelance consultant.

During the course of the investigation, detectives found that Butler, a former chairman and governor of the College of Pharmacy Practice, had claimed almost £175,000 in expenses from the Health Services Commission to pay for a locum at his practice while he was away.

But police discovered Prof Butler, who made the claims between July 2002 and January last year, had sold his practice in Reading, Berks., before he made the claims.

When they contacted the named “locum”, Kathrine Billing, they discovered she was a former employee of Butler who had not seen him since she resigned over a “clash of personalities” more than 20 years ago.

Mrs Billing, 57, of Crowthorne, Berks, said that when she was contacted by police: “I was shocked, scared and very upset about what was happening and what he could do to my career.

“Pharmacists are supposed to be trustworthy people but my confidence and trust has been completely broken. He was a senior person in the profession.”

During the raid on Butler’s second home in London, police found cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, marijuana resin and the “date rape” drugs gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and rohypnol, which are powerful relaxants.

Sedatives including temazapam, diazepam, ketamine and midazolam were also discovered. Police sources said the drugs were used during sex parties.

Prof Butler has pleaded guilty in court to one count of fraud, two counts of obtaining property by deception, three counts each of possessing Class A and B drugs and five counts of possessing Class C drugs.

He was unavailable for comment at his large detached home in Reading, where a man believed to be one of his sons said he was “unavailable”.

It is understood that Butler is being supported by his wife Mary, 61, and their five children, Ruth, 35, John, 32, Kate, 31, Philip, 25, and Anthony, 20.

Prof Butler, a former visiting Professor at Reading University, has in the past worked as an advisor to the Department of Health on an investigation into NHS management of medicines.

A spokesman for the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman said Prof Butler was immediately referred to police after the “irregularities” were discovered.

“The PHSO takes the misappropriation of public money extremely seriously,” the spokesman said.

“Following our referral to the Metropolitan Police we asked our auditors to review our systems. They were satisfied with our internal procedure.”

A spokesman for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society added: “We have not been notified from any official source about any allegations regarding Prof Butler.

“When we are notified it will go through the normal channels to evaluate what, if any, disciplinary proceedings maybe necessary.”

Raj Persaud: the severity of the General Medical Council’s criticism led to doubts that he would be able to resume work as a consultant. Photograph: Maggie Hardie/Rex Features

The disgraced celebrity psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud has left his job at a leading hospital four months after being convicted of dishonesty by a disciplinary tribunal.

Persaud, who has lost media commissions after admitting plagiarism at a General Medical Council hearing in June, has stepped down as a consultant psychiatrist for the South London and Maudsley NHS trust. The move follows talks with trust officers this month when he was legally cleared to return to work after being struck off for three months by the GMC. The tribunal criticised him so heavily that there was widespread doubt that he would return to consultant status.

A spokesman for the Maudsley confirmed that Persaud had left. He said: "This is a private matter between the trust and Dr Persaud and I am afraid that we do not want to add anything to that." Persaud did not respond to approaches by the Guardian for comment.

Persaud, who spent 12 years at the Maudsley, made himself Britain's best-known "mind doctor". He was a regular on ITV's Good Morning programme and BBC Radio 4's All in the Mind, as well as a prolific contributor to newspapers and medical journals.

He was praised for making his subject interesting and accessible, but attracted increasing claims that his extraordinary output had to be based on others' unacknowledged work. He also made an enemy of the Scientology movement - opposing it in a way that many of his colleagues supported - and it was a plagiarism allegation from it that led to the hearing and his downfall. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, founded by the Scientologists, complained to the GMC that a hostile article by Persaud in the Independent in 2005 plagiarised several passages from another academic. The publicity then attracted claims from others.

Persaud, 49, married with two children, admitted nine cases of plagiarism but denied deceit, blaming overwork and misunderstandings for sloppiness in acknowledging sources.

During the four-day fitness-to-practise hearing in Manchester, he called on character witnesses including a range of celebrities and respected public figures, including the former foreign secretary David Owen.

He was found to have acted dishonestly after the panel heard evidence not just of plagiarism, but of attempts to put the blame on others such as subeditors, whom he wrongly accused of missing out attributions and quotation marks. The three members of the tribunal unanimously dismissed his defence and issued a scathing assessment of his behaviour.

Persaud grew up in a high-achieving family and was sent to Haberdashers' Aske's public school in Hertfordshire, before taking his first degree at University College London, and beginning his association with the Maudsley as a psychiatric trainee. He accumulated eight degrees and diplomas by the age of 43. He is married to an eye surgeon at Moorfields hospital, London.

Personable and fluent, Persaud made lasting friendships, and several media figures including Richard Madeley, Judy Finnigan and the broadcaster Martin Bashir said after the hearing that they wanted to work with him again.

Child Deaths

  • John Carvel, social affairs editor
  • The Guardian,
  • Tuesday July 29 2008

Use of painful physical restraint to maintain discipline in privately-run child jails was outlawed by the court of appeal yesterday as an infringement of young people's fundamental human rights.

The court quashed regulations introduced by the government 12 months ago allowing staff to use violent methods to keep order in secure training centres in England and Wales.

Methods include pulling back thumbs and karate-style blows to the ribs and nose. Use of a controversial "nose distraction technique" involving the deliberate infliction of pain had already been suspended after ministers received medical advice that it could be dangerous.

The regulations were introduced last year after inquests into the deaths in custody of Gareth Myatt, 15, and Adam Rickwood, 14.

Myatt was asphyxiated while being restrained by three members of staff at Rainsbrook secure training centre, Northamptonshire. Rickwood, the youngest child to die in custody in Britain, hanged himself after being restrained at the Hassockfield centre, Co Durham.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "We are examining the court's judgement with great care and we are considering an appeal."

David Britten

  • Rachel Williams
  • The Guardian,
  • Thursday July 17 2008

Poor management and a string of missed opportunities allowed the manager of an NHS eating disorders clinic to manipulate more than 20 young female patients into sexual relationships, an independent investigation concluded yesterday.

For two decades David Britten, now 54, described by the investigation's chair as a "manipulative predator who represents a clear danger to women", targeted the most vulnerable women - the very young or the most unwell, the report found. He "groomed" them to render them emotionally dependent on him, isolating them from their families and leading each to believe they were in an exclusive relationship. In reality, he was often involved with several other women at the same time; in 1998 he was involved with eight patients. Some women became pregnant by him.

Britten, who worked as a nurse in the eating disorders service at the Gordon hospital in London from 1980, and became the manager of the specialist Peter Dally Clinic, in Westminster, when it opened in 1996, would make patients feel special by telling them he could only give psychotherapy to a small number - even though he was not qualified to do so.

Witnesses told how women became desperate to see him, with queues forming outside his door. When patients believed they were in love with him, and that he felt the same, he would manipulate them by withholding personal time. Sexual encounters took place in his office, with the door locked, and in the women's bedrooms at the clinic.

Britten's sexual relationships with patients, the youngest of whom was 17, only came to light when women came forward after he was sacked in 2002 for gross misconduct: for meeting patients individually, showing favouritism, meeting them behind closed doors, holding the keys to their flats and blocking complaints against him.

An earlier inquiry into claims of inappropriate touching made by two patients, led by the now defunct Riverside Mental Health Trust in 1998, was "seriously flawed" and was a missed chance to detect his abusive practices, the inquiry found.

The authors of the report, commissioned by North West London Strategic Health Authority, now NHS London, said Britten had had unprofessional contact with at least 23 women. Lawyer Sarah Harman, who represents some victims, said she believed from talking to her clients that up to 40 could be affected.

The Peter Dally Clinic closed in 2001 when the Central and North West London Mental Health Trust took over. It is now taking legal advice on whether action should be taken against other staff, two of whom are believed to be still in the NHS.

The inquiry criticised the Nursing and Midwifery Council for failing to strike Britten off the nursing register until 2004, despite claims of abuse two years earlier.

The Crown Prosecution Service has said there is too little evidence at present to prosecute Britten, who may be living in northern France.

Harman said her clients, who were responsible for securing the inquiry, still wished to see Britten prosecuted and were furious that he would be entitled to draw an NHS pension. They found it hard to accept that Britten's managers had not apologised to them, she added.

  • Sara Gaines and agencies
  • Society Guardian,
  • Wednesday July 16 2008

Inadequate NHS management allowed a predatory male nurse to manipulate 23 vulnerable patients into sexual relationships, an inquiry said today.

David Britten, 54, preyed on patients battling eating disorders at the Peter Dally Clinic, central London, for 20 years before allegations of sexual misconduct emerged when he was sacked for unrelated matters.

Today an investigation, commissioned by NHS London concluded poor management, missed opportunities and the reluctance of his vulnerable victims to speak out allowed the abuse to carry on.

The report said Britten, the clinic's former manager, was a "manipulative predator who represented a clear danger to women".

No criminal charges have been brought, as the Criminal Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence.

The chairwoman of the investigation, Alison McKenna said: "The effect of David Britten's abuse of these vulnerable women cannot be overestimated.

"Britten was a specialist in eating disorders and would have known that affected individuals can be very compliant and eager to please. He deliberately targeted vulnerable patients, grooming them for his own sexual gratification."

NHS London's chief nurse, Trish Morris-Thompson, apologised on behalf of the health service.

"As a nurse and a midwife, I am appalled by David Britten's actions and that they went unchecked for so long. He abused not just these women but also his position of professional trust," she said.

"This report has lessons for NHS organisations around the country and it is my job to ensure that the lessons are widely disseminated. They will be."

The Peter Dally Clinic closed in 2001 when the Central and North West London mental health trust took over and Britten's activities were uncovered.

Britten was employed as a mental health nurse in the eating disorders service in Westminster from 1980 to 2002 and was manager from 1996.

The report says there were two significant factors that allowed his abuse to remain undetected for so long. The first was poor management of the eating disorders service. The second was the understandable reluctance of vulnerable women to speak out against someone upon whom they were dependent for their care.

The NHS took appropriate action in dismissing him but the Nursing and Midwifery Council did not take action to suspend or strike him off the nursing register until 2004, despite having received a string of allegations over the previous two years.

A new eating disorders service opened in central London in 2002 and the report said: "We believe that the policies, procedures and change in ethos at the [new] clinic provide a significantly improved and safer service."

Thomas O'Neill

O'Neill failed to reveal past misconduct in job applications

Posted: 07 July 2008 Community Care

A social worker who conducted “inappropriate and exploitative sexual relations” with two vulnerable service users has been removed from the register.

Thomas O’Neill repeatedly “pestered” the women by telephone over a 13-month period while at Westminster Council and asked to see them outside work, an independent committee at the General Social Care Council found.

He also acted dishonestly in failing to tell prospective employers and the GSCC of his past misconduct, the committee said.

O’Neill, of south London, joined Westminster Council in January 1998 and began working with the female service users as part of a multi-agency team assigned to a supported housing unit.

He was sacked in February 1999 for gross misconduct when the inappropriate relationships came to light.

Job applications

O'Neill omitted his employment at Westminster and subsequent dismissal on application forms for two other jobs - at a social care and housing agency and Brent Social Services - and for registration with the GSCC.

The committee concluded that O’Neill’s failure to supply complete work histories amounted to misconduct. The GSCC code of practice requires all social workers to be “honest and trustworthy”.

A statement from the GSCC said: “Due to the seriousness and breadth of the misconduct, the committee felt that it had no choice but to remove O’Neill from the register.”

O’Neill became the 19th social worker to be struck off in England for breaching the code of practice since the organisation began investigating allegations of misconduct in April 2006.

In January this year, the council called for the development of codes of practice on sexual boundaries for social care staff.

Dr Raj Persaud

· Psychiatrist reprimanded for dishonest conduct

· 'I should have been much more careful,' panel told

  • Martin Wainwright
  • The Guardian,
  • Saturday June 21 2008

It was the scale of his dishonesty which did for Dr Raj Persaud, the celebrity psychiatrist who was reprimanded and suspended from practice for three months by the General Medical Council last night.

The best-known "mind doctor" in Britain could be either an outstanding practitioner or a matchless media performer for the profession, the GMC decided. But he did not have time to do both. Laden with columns, book commissions and broadcasting jobs, Persaud harvested eight degrees and diplomas, a hospital consultancy, two research medals and a professorial chair by the age of 43.

"I was under stress. I should have been much more careful," he told a four-day fitness-to-practice hearing in Manchester. But the stress was of his own making and drove him to make plagiarism a habit.

He was told by Dr Anthony Morgan, chairman of the panel of four experts, two men and two women: "The public is entitled to expect that doctors will be honest and trustworthy at all times, and that they adhere to the highest standard of probity. Your conduct has fallen below the standards of behaviour that the public is entitled to expect from doctors and undermines the public's confidence in the profession."

Persaud, who appeared regularly on TV's This Morning programme, admitted nine cases of plagiarism but denied that he had been deliberately dishonest. The panel heard evidence that he wrongly had blamed sub-editors for missing out attributions and quotation marks, and dismissed his defence.

Morgan said that all four members were "in no doubt that your dishonest conduct and plagiarising other people's work on multiple occasions represents a serious breach of the principles that are central to good medical practice".

Imposing the suspension, Morgan told Persaud that the panel's lightest option, of a warning and imposing conditions on his practice, was "insufficient as they would not adequately reflect the gravity of your misconduct, or protect the public interest by maintaining public confidence in the medical profession".

The short suspension was influenced by the fact that Persaud had "cut down on [his] media and journalistic projects" and "was more cautious about taking on extra work".

The action was triggered by a complaint from the Scientology movement, which has crossed swords with Persaud over modern psychiatry, but widened to include a growing number of allegations.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, founded by the Scientologists, complained to the GMC that a hostile article by Persaud in the Independent in 2005 plagiarised several passages from another professor.

Persaud, a keen poker player and risk-taker, was embedded in the medical establishment in a way which partly explains the GMC decision to go for suspension rather than a warning. He lectured to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, examined students, and was even a referee for articles submitted to the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Persaud claimed his dual skills made him an ideal "talking head" for psychiatry, compared to what he called "unqualified media pundits who normally dominate the media debate".

 Personable and fluent, he seemed well-qualified to advise other people on how to run their lives. His undoubted talents made lasting friendships, and several media figures, including Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, and the broadcaster Martin Bashir, said last night that they wanted to work with him again.

Bashir said in a statement read to the hearing by Robert Francis QC, Persaud's defence counsel, that he had "a personal relationship [with the doctor] for which I'm deeply grateful" and found him "invariably generous in recommending the work of others".

The former foreign secretary, Dr David Owen, submitted a statement praising Persaud's work in helping the public's understanding of mental health; and Transworld, which has published a series of books by the doctor, said they were "important work, and we hope to continue working with him".

Persaud grew up in a high-achieving family and was sent to Haberdasher's Aske's public school before taking his first degree at University College, London. He is married to an eye surgeon at Moorfields hospital, London, and has a son and a daughter. He quipped in one of his media profiles that his children were "the ultimate test of his sanity".

Even his victims acknowledge his innovatory flair, which won him the Royal College of Psychiatrists' research medal, the Osler medal, and the Denis Hill Prize from his own hospital, the Maudsley.

Prof Richard Bentall, whose work was used without attribution in Persaud's 2003 collection of case studies, From the Edge of the Couch, told the GMC panel he was baffled that such a clever colleague could be so stupid.

Bentall, who had appeared with Persaud on the Radio 4 programme All in the Mind, said he was "flabbergasted" and added, all but scratching his head: "I find it hard to believe that somebody with the reputation of Persaud would deliberately set out to do something so obviously wrong." But he had.

Analysis of his own psychological issues had already started well before the hearing's verdict, and it will naturally draw on Persaud's voluminous work.

In one of countless newspaper articles, on top of more than 100 academic papers in his name, he wrote: "Psychologically embedded in the relationships of the powerful are the seeds of their eventual destruction ... people with elevated power become disposed to elevated levels of risk-taking. They are more mentally oriented to potential rewards and oblivious to pitfalls."

Tonmoy Sharma

By Lucy Cockcroft

Last Updated: 1:45am BST 01/04/2008

A psychiatrist who regularly appeared as an expert on the BBC has been struck off the medical register after he lied about his academic qualifications and performed unethical drugs tests on mentally ill patients.

Tonmoy Sharma, who was a senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, has been exposed as a fraud who repeatedly referred to himself as a "professor" when records show that he had never completed a PhD thesis.

Despite this, Sharma, who was registered at the Clinical Neuroscience Research Centre in Dartford, Kent, regularly used the letters PhD after his name and managed to deceive the NHS and some of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies.

Tonmoy Sharma has been struck off the medical register

Tonmoy Sharma was found guilty of serious professional misconduct

He also appeared on the BBC2 series Mind of a Murderer in 2000 and was often used as an expert commentator on BBC News Online stories.

A General Medical Council panel yesterday found Sharma guilty of "serious failings of personal integrity" after hearing that he recruited mentally ill patients to test drugs without seeking proper approval.

Andrew Popat, chairman of the panel, told Sharma: "Your persistent and wide-ranging dishonesty and untruthfulness, spanning a number of years, together with your lack of insight, is so serious that it is fundamentally incompatible with your continuing to be a registered medical practitioner."

Mr Popat said Sharma, the author of several books on mental illness, had "contributed significantly towards the advancement of medical science" and was highly regarded by his colleagues.

However, after a 10-month hearing, the GMC Fitness to Practise panel found Sharma guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck him off the medical register.

The 42-year-old, who trained in India, was found to have acted unprofessionally in relation to five major studies between 1997 and 2003, involving four leading pharmaceutical companies including Eli Lilly and the Janssen Research Foundation.

He also misled the companies when he chose to use identical patients in different studies, subjecting them to MRI scans and tests that had not been approved by an ethics committee. In 2003, he recruited mental health patients in unsolicited telephone calls and without consent from their doctors. He then failed to give them proper information about the trials - one schizophrenic was simply handed a leaflet.

His misconduct was first uncovered by the drugs company Sanofi, and a complaint resulting in his temporary suspension was made to the Institute of Psychiatry in 2001, prompting an investigation.

Sharma, who represented himself at the hearing, denied the claims and insisted that he "believed in ethics in medicine".

Quality of Care

Probe into mental health trust

By Alex Hayes


A MAJOR investigation into the quality of care provided to self-harmers by a local health trust is being launched today.

The Healthcare Commission, a watchdog which checks on standards, has started the investigation after allegations were made about the West london Mental Health NHS Trust.

Investigators will look at the period from April 2005 to the present day to see how the trust responded to safety incidents over that period, particularly focussed on self-harmers and the systems in place to stop them hurting themselves again.

The investigation comes after impromptu visits to some of the 32 sites run by the trust across Ealing, Hounslow and Hammersmith and Fulham, by officers on February 13.

Particular focus is being put on how many incidents have occurred, how they were dealt with and how these "near misses" were investigated.

Nigel Ellis, the commission's head of investigations, said: "Clearly, there are particularly challenging safety issues that have to be managed at mental health trusts.

"It is crucial that every trust monitors and manages risks in order to protect the safety of patients. This investigation will look into how this is done at West London Mental Health NHS Trust.

"We are not saying the services provided by the trust are unsafe. If we believed they were unsafe we would take immediate action. But we have a duty to patients to be certain that all necessary systems are in place to manage risks.

"We are pleased to have the full co-operation of the trust in our work and will report back fully and publicly in due course, making recommendations to improve services if necessary."

Service users, their families and staff members will all be interviewed as part of the investigation and people who think they might be able to contribute to the investigation can telephone 0845 601 3012.

Oladele Awomolo

Mental Health Nurse Convicted Of Fraud Is Struck Off

Main Category: Medical Malpractice / Litigation

Also Included In: Nursing / Midwifery

Article Date: 28 Mar 2008 - 1:00 PDT

A mental health nurse convicted of obtaining property by deception and false accounting was struck off the NMC's Register at a hearing in London on Tuesday March 3rd 2008.

Oladele Awomolo, 42, admitted that his fitness to practice was impaired because of his convictions but argued for leniency from the NMC's Conduct and Competence Committee which heard the case.

Mr Awomolo pleaded guilty to five counts of obtaining property by deception and four counts of false accounting in March 2005 at Luton Crown Court. He was sentenced to a community punishment order for 120 hours on each count to run concurrently and ordered to pay compensation of £10819.90 to the Inland Revenue and £1000 in costs.

The judge described Mr Awomolo's actions which took place over a three year period while he was training to be a nurse, as 'deliberate and sophisticated' and said he avoided prison 'by the skin of his teeth'.

Mr Awomolo was also convicted of using a certificate of insurance with intent to deceive in December 2006 and ordered to pay £500 and £455 in costs.

In deciding to remove Mr Awomolo from the Register, the committee panel did consider more lenient sanctions like a caution order, suspension or taking no action at all.

But it was decided that his convictions represented too serious a departure from the standards set out in the NMC's Code of Professional Conduct.

NMC spokesperson, Colin Joseph, said: "Such dishonesty over such a prolonged period is incompatible with registration. Confidence in the NMC would be undermined if he remained on the Register."


The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is the UK regulator for two professions, nursing and midwifery. The primary purpose of the NMC is protection of the public. It does this through maintaining a register of all nurses, midwives and specialist community public health nurses eligible to practise within the UK and by setting standards for their education, training and conduct. Currently the number of registrants exceeds 674,899. The Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001 (The Order), sets out the NMC's role and responsibilities.

The independent panel is selected from a pool of individuals appointed by the Appointments Board. They come from a variety of backgrounds and are not NMC Council members, nor do they sit on any committee of the Council.

Colin Norris

Nurse convicted of killing four patients

  • David Batty and agencies
  • Monday March 3 2008

Colin Norris outside Newcastle crown court. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

A nurse was today convicted of murdering four elderly patients with lethal doses of the diabetes drug insulin.

Colin Norris, 32, who worked at two hospitals in Leeds, was also found guilty of the attempted murder of another elderly woman.

The trial at Newcastle crown court heard that suspicions were raised when Norris, of Elgin Terrace, Glasgow, predicted the death of a patient. The patient, Ethel Hall, slipped into a fatal coma later on his shift.

Hall, 86, from Calverley, Leeds, was recovering after hip surgery at Leeds General Infirmary at the time of her death. Tests found around 12 times the normal level of insulin in her blood.

West Yorkshire police looked into earlier deaths while Hall was working at the infirmary and the city's St James's hospital. They found three other women, none of whom were diabetics, had died from insulin overdoses.

The staff nurse was found guilty of the murders of Doris Ludlum, 80, of Pudsey, Bridget Bourke, 88, of Holbeck, at the infirmary between June and December 2002, and the murder of Irene Crooks, 79, of Leeds, at St James's in October 2002.

The jury also found him guilty of the attempted murder of Vera Wilby, 90, of Rawdon, at the infirmary. She recovered from an unexpected hypoglycaemic attack in 2002 but died a year later.

Norris was arrested on December 11 2002, but released on bail pending further inquiries. His employers, the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, suspended him the next day.

He was eventually charged with the four murders and one attempted murder on October 12 2005.

Norris will be sentenced tomorrow morning.

Speaking outside the court after the verdict, detective chief superintendent Chris Gregg said the nurse faced a lengthy prison sentence.

He described Norris as an "extremely arrogant individual" who was "looking for opportunities to kill".

"While others around him were duly caring for patients, he was looking for opportunities to kill by poisoning them with insulin," said Gregg.

"Within a six month period Norris murdered four women and attempted to murder another. His confidence was growing to such an extent he clearly felt he could kill with impunity."

The families, in a statement issued through West Yorkshire police, welcomed the guilty verdict.

They said: "We are pleased with today's verdict, which brings to an end a lengthy investigation which has been like a black cloud hanging over us for five long years.

"Our relatives, Ethel Hall, Vera Wilby, Doris Ludlam, Bridget Bourke and Irene Crookes, went into hospital to receive treatment and recover.

"However due to the actions of this man, a person from whom they should have received care and been able to trust, they passed away. He cut short their lives and their precious time with their children, grandchildren and in some cases great-grandchildren."

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust apologised to the victims' families for their relatives' premature deaths.

Its medical director, Dr Hugo Mascie-Taylor, said the trust had since increased the use of CCTV and had a permanent police presence on site.

David Scutt, the Crown Prosecution Service reviewing lawyer, said: "Colin Norris preyed on his patients at a time when they were at their most trusting and most vulnerable. Each was elderly and had undergone major surgery for hip fracture repair; each also had other serious underlying medical problems.

"His choice of insulin or anti-diabetic agents to poison them showed a degree of careful planning.

"Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the victims and their families at this time."

Robert Wells

As sex offender gets 15 years, job loophole is revealed

  • Rosie Cowan, crime correspondent
  • The Guardian,
  • Wednesday June 9 2004

A dangerous paedophile convicted yesterday of drugging, raping and filming girls got a job as a police doctor, despite previous accusations of sexually abusing children.

Robert Wells, 52, was jailed for 15 years after being found guilty of nine of the 11 charges he faced, including raping an 11-year-old girl twice and sexually assaulting her three times.

Wells, who denied all the offences, also filmed himself attacking another 11-year-old girl as she slept after giving the victim and her five-year-old sister Angel Delight dessert laced with tranquillisers.

The Winchester crown court jury of nine men and three women deliberated for seven and a half hours before clearing Wells of raping and indecently assaulting the five-year-old.

But in a shocking parallel to the case of the Soham murderer, Ian Huntley, it was revealed yesterday that a vetting loophole led to Wells getting a job as a police surgeon six years after being charged with assaulting two girls. Detectives fear he abused many more victims in his 27 years as a doctor.

In 1995, Wells was cleared of attacking an eight-year-old girl and a girl of 15 in Brighton when two separate trials at Lewes crown court collapsed following legal arguments. The General Medical Council decided to take no action.

However, in October 2001 he was sub-contracted through Primecare medical staffing agency to work for Hampshire police, examining victims of crime, despite being known to the neighbouring Sussex force.

Guidelines in place from 1993 to 2002 meant police were only obliged to carry out local checks. They now have to run checks everywhere the prospective employee lived for the previous five years.

Hampshire's assistant chief constable, Colin Smith, who is responsible for police doctors in the force, said vetting procedures had been tightened as a result of the Wells case. He would not have employed Wells had he known of any previous allegations, but he said that Primecare, Wells' main employer, had the major responsibility for carrying out checks.

Primecare said it completed all the required government checks at the time, and Hampshire police insisted they were satisfied Wells did not abuse any of the 20 girls under 16 he examined as part of 3,731 examinations he carried out for them from October 2001 until his arrest in February 2003.

Nevertheless, the case raises questions about how many more sex abusers might have slipped through the net and obtained jobs giving them access to children and vulnerable adults.

 Huntley, who murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, got a job as a school caretaker in Soham, Cambridgeshire, despite a catalogue of sexual accusations against him from women and girls in Humberside, where he had previously lived; these were wiped from police records because he had no convictions.

Passing sentence yesterday, Judge Keith Cutler said Wells was a dangerous sex offender who used his status and wealth to gain the trust of his victims' parents, and that his behaviour cast a shadow over the entire medical profession.

The offences took place in 2002 and 2003. But detectives believe Wells may have abused many more victims in his 27 years as a doctor and appealed for them to come forward.

Police officers, who described his deviousness and total refusal to cooperate with the investigation, are trying to decode encrypted computer files which could yield vital clues, although they admitted this could take years.

Detective Inspector Sara Glen, who headed the inquiry, said the computer file had a long list of girls' names on it and she was convinced more crimes would be uncovered.

Christopher Allison

Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 08:57 GMT

Allison was jailed for a total of eight years

The Crown Prosecution Service is seeking an increase on the sentence handed out to a consultant psychiatrist convicted of raping women patients.

Christopher Allison, 60, was jailed for eight years on 10 December last year after being found guilty of nine counts of indecent assault and two counts of rape.

The offences took place over a 14 year period at clinics in Ashford and Canterbury in Kent, Oxford, and more recently in Basingstoke, Hants.

The case will now go to the Court of Appeal.

Following the trial at Winchester Crown Court Judge Hooton said:

"You were in as important a position of trust to your patients as it's possible to be.

"They relied on you to help them and you betrayed them for your own selfish sexual purposes."

Police described Allison as a "serial sex offender" and said four more women had come forward since the start of the trial alleging they were sexually assaulted by him.

Clifford Ayling

GP Clifford Ayling spent 20 years indecently assaulting female patients. Now he has been jailed, and 16 of his victims have won compensation

  • Sarah Bosley
  • The Guardian,
  • Monday April 29 2002

Looking back, it seems so obvious that Clifford Ayling's patients should have walked out of the surgery door and never come back. They should have refused to take off all their clothes, insisted on a chaperone and threatened to sue if he laid an abusive finger on them. But each thought she was alone, those who did complain were ignored and the GP regularly assaulted women in the name of obstetrics and gynaecology, probably for more than 20 years.

Ayling was convicted of 13 indecent assaults on 10 women patients and jailed for four years in December 2000, but his trial answered none of the most important and disturbing questions about the abuse he perpetrated - such as why he was not stopped years earlier. Nor did the successful civil case brought by 16 of the women for compensation. Their hopes now are pinned on a government inquiry, due to start soon. Although the women lost the battle to have it held in public, they won the right to be present throughout, listening to the questions and, it is hoped, the answers.

So far, 64 women have contacted Canterbury solicitor Sarah Harman with tales that sometimes echo each other spookily. They all, she says, tell a similar story - a story which the medical profession and managers time and again refused to believe in the face of Ayling's denials.

One of them was Steina Pluckrose, who arrived to sign on at the surgery in 1990 just after she moved to Folkestone, having separated from her husband. She was 27. Ayling called her into the consulting room immediately for a routine he repeated with numerous other women patients. He said that she must have her breasts checked.

"He got me stripped naked," she says. "I was a bit shell-shocked. His attitude was so brusque - it was so businesslike. You didn't like to argue with him. If you questioned him you were a stupid, hysterical woman.

"He did the breast check very slowly. I'd never had one before." She had to sit naked on the edge of the bed. "He stood between your legs. You are humiliated for a kick-off and you have only just met this man, who is about six inches from your face."

But it was hard for any of them to know where clinical necessity began and ended. Ayling did a smear test a couple of weeks later and the results showed a genuine problem. "He said there were pre-cancerous cells that he needed to keep an eye on. A few months later he gave me another test. After three to four smears, he booked me in for a colposcopy," she says.

She went to the hospital for the internal examination which would remove suspect cells for analysis, expecting to see Rodney Ledward, the consultant gynaecologist who was himself later struck off the medical register for performing botched operations. But it was Ayling again. "My heart sank when I saw him in his little white coat," she says. "He got me in the stirrups and got as close as he could. He patted the inside of my thighs."

There was another colposcopy, carried out in the GP's surgery, before Pluckrose decided she had to get away and booked herself in with her mother's GP. Tests at the new surgery quickly showed that she was in need of urgent treatment - she underwent a very deep cone biopsy to remove cancerous cells.

What was Ayling's motivation? Did he despise women, lust after them or was he in obsessive pursuit of hidden disease?

These are unanswered questions. He underwent specialist training in obstetrics, but never made it to consultant status. From around 1980 to 1994, he worked as a clinical assistant in obstetrics and gynaecology in various Kent hospitals, holding clinics and delivering babies.

Long before Pluckrose went to sign on at his GP surgery there was cause for concern. At least seven complaints were made during the time he had worked in Kent hospitals. As early as 1980, he was sent for psychiatric assessment after what Harman describes as "a brutal delivery". The psychiatric report has been lost.

Ayling's hospital career continued. Two more women who complained in 1982 and 1986 were persuaded not to take it further by doctors who knew Ayling. In 1987, Ayling delivered Linda Shaw's son. She tells of feeling herself rip inside as he pulled with forceps at the baby's head while her husband and the nurses held the bed down. The baby's face was bruised and his head elongated. He suffered no long-term effects, but she did. Ayling neglected to give her antibiotics and her wound festered. Two repair operations were carried out by Ledward.

Shaw consulted a solicitor and asked Ledward to write a letter outlining the damage. "He said, 'Who delivered you again?' I said it was Dr Ayling and he said, 'Oh, Clifford.' That's when I knew it would be no good," she says. Ledward's letter says the delivery was fine.

Two more complaints in 1992 - one from a student midwife which led to Ayling receiving a warning letter, and one in 1993 - were investigated by a manager at the William Harvey Hospital. On November 5 1993, Ayling was interviewed by Peter Savege, then clinical director of Kent family health services authority, who told him patients said he had rubbed himself against their thighs and got an erection. Ayling claimed that it was not his penis but a large bunch of keys, which he then produced from his pocket.

The explanation was accepted, but the following year, Ayling's contract to work in South Kent hospitals was not renewed. When his lawyers protested, the hospital management insisted that there was no stain on his professional character. He got a reference signed by Rodney Ledward and another consultant to say he "gives an entirely satisfactory service".

This allowed him to continue to assault women at his medical practice for years to come, selecting, it now appears, the more vulnerable, like Sue Alsworth and Trish Howard who were both just 16 when they first saw him on their own. "I was 16 and naive and never had any previous doctor," says Alsworth, who is now 25. "I'd been brought up to trust my doctor." She had "numerous" breast examinations carried out by him and internal examinations, but there came a day, a couple of years on, when she felt confident enough to put a stop to it. "The last time I went to him he asked to examine my breasts again. I said, 'No - you have shown me how to examine my breasts.' He said yes - we have to do it. That was the first time I became very self-conscious. I thought, there is no breast cancer in my family and I'm young and fit and healthy. I let him go through with the routine. After that I left his surgery and never returned."

Howard, now 23, went to ask him for the morning-after pill. He said she could not have it unless she agreed to a breast examination. "I had to let him do it. I was crying. My mum was a patient and I thought if I didn't have this examination he would tell my mum," she says. In her medical notes, it is recorded that she also had an internal examination. Howard says she can't remember and now thinks she may have blocked out the memory. "I remember laying down looking out of the window really crying," she says.

Jacqui Godden was 23 and on tranquillisers because of family problems. She, too, was told to strip naked for a breast and internal examination when she went to register with the practice. "I was quite surprised because my husband and two children were in and out like yo-yos. But I thought he was being a very cautious, caring doctor."

Now she thinks of him as an abuser. She was dependent on tranquillisers. He refused to give her repeat prescriptions without intimate examinations. For three years, she had an internal examination every two weeks and a smear every month. Each time she had to strip naked. She wanted to come off the tablets, but he prescribed more and she started to take more. "The more he abused me, the more medication I took," she says. "I asked Ayling so many times if I could have counselling. He pulled his chair up close and said: 'I'm your doctor, I'm your midwife, I'm your counsellor.'"

Finally she found another GP and was off the drugs within a year. "My life was given back to me," she says.

Angela Hodges, 54, a businesswoman, was less vulnerable, but still found it hard to escape. He demanded that she bare her breasts so he could listen to her heart when she had a chest infection, and ran his fingers over her nipples. "I knew he had assaulted me," she says, "but I thought I was alone. He was very controlling."

She asked for a chaperone when he carried out an internal examination, but it turned out to be Ayling's sister-in-law - his wife was the practice receptionist. The chaperone made no difference to his behaviour. He told Hodges that her womb was tilting back - as it had for 30 years, since the birth of her first child - and tried to pull it forwards. "My entire body was lifted off the bed," she says. "I screamed out."

Harman is now suing the health authority for failing to stop Ayling. "All down the line, women weren't listened to," she says. "By the end of 1998, more than a dozen women were making very serious allegations and he was still permitted to practice."

The General Medical Council did not interfere because the police were involved, so Ayling was able to break his bail conditions, send the chaperone out of the room and assault another patient as late as September 2000, a month before his trial began. There are very many questions for the inquiry to answer.