High-profile pathologist steps down

AN EMINENT pathologist who has given evidence in high-profile Suffolk murder trials has quit the Home Office register after being severely criticised by a disciplinary hearing.

AN EMINENT pathologist who has given evidence in high-profile Suffolk murder trials has quit the Home Office register after being severely criticised by a disciplinary hearing.

Dr Michael Heath decided to step down yesterday rather than be struck off after an Advisory Board for Forensic Pathology ruled his conduct brought into question his fitness to practice.

Dr Heath has given evidence in a number of Suffolk murder trials - including that of Ipswich man Simon Hall.

Following the decision Hall's family said they felt the pathologist was taking the “easy way out”.

In August the Advisory Board for Forensic Pathology found Dr Heath had bungled post-mortem examinations on two women leading to their partners being tried for murder.

In both cases - including that of Lowestoft man Steven Puaca - his professional performance fell short of the standards required of forensic pathologists by the secretary of state, the tribunal ruled.

Most Read

Mr Puaca was jailed in 2002 for killing Jacqueline Tindsley but was later cleared by the Appeal Court.

The hearing into Dr Heath's conduct, which was expected to reconvene on Monday to discuss disciplinary options, has now been called off.

The panel could have chosen from a range of options which included doing nothing, reprimanding him, suspending him or removing him from the list of Home Office pathologists.

But last night a spokesman for the Home Office confirmed Dr Heath had decided to step down before any action was taken.

He said: “We are aware of his decision to remove his name from the register. I believe, as a result, the tribunal chairman has decided not to continue with proceedings as, because of his resignation, Dr Heath will not be able to reapply for the register.”

A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office, which will rule on whether all of Dr Heath's cases are reviewed, said it was still too early to decide if this would happen.

Hall, formerly of Hill House Road, Ipswich, was found guilty of the murder of Capel St Mary pensioner Joan Albert.

Mrs Albert was discovered dead by a neighbour in the hallway of her home in Boydlands, Capel, in December 2001.

She had suffered stab wounds inflicted by a knife taken from the house and Dr Heath was a central prosecution witness in the trial.

Hall has always maintained his innocence and last night Hall's family spokesman, Stephanie Bon, said: “As campaigners for a miscarriage of justice involving Michael Heath, we feel this is an easy way out.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter