Patient's death - new inquest

County Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle will resume the inquest at Chester-le-Street Magistrates’ Court on Monday into the death in March 2003 of William Kerr, 84, whose body was exhumed by police as part of the murder inquiry.

A CORONER will reopen an inquest into the death of a former patient of a County Durham doctor acquitted of murder.

County Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle will resume the inquest at Chester-le-Street Magistrates’ Court on Monday into the death in March 2003 of William Kerr, 84, whose body was exhumed by police as part of the murder inquiry.

In July, Mr Tweddle announced he had decided against investigating the deaths of 18 more patients of Dr Howard Martin.

Dr Martin, 72, used to practise in the Newton Aycliffe area before retiring to Penmaenmawr, north Wales.

In 2005, he was cleared at Teesside Crown Court of murdering Harry Gittins, 74, Frank Moss, 59, and Stanley Weldon, 74.

The bodies of these three men and a fourth, Mr Kerr, formerly of Derwent Place, Newton Aycliffe, who was found dead at his home, were exhumed by Durham Police as part of their murder inquiry. During a Press conference at his office in Crook in July, Mr Tweddle announced that he would only be holding an inquest into the death of Mr Kerr.

He said that he had spoken to most of the families concerned before coming to his decision.

Mr Tweddle added that because he had already opened inquests into the deaths of the four men whose bodies had been exhumed, he was guided by different rules, and had considered evidence including transcripts from Dr Martin’s trial.

He said: “Out of these four deaths, I must make it clear now that the inquest into the death of Mr Kerr will be resumed on a date to be fixed in the future.

“I conclude taking all the relevant facts of the case that are known to me into consideration, that there is insufficient cause to justify me resuming the inquests into the deaths of Mr Gittins, Mr Weldon and Mr Moss.” Dr Martin, a married father-of-four, who had been a family GP for 50 years, was accused of murdering Mr Moss on March 14, 2003, Mr Weldon four days later, and Mr Gittins on January 22, 2004.

The prosecution alleged he had administered huge doses of powerful painkilling drugs with the intention of killing them.

However, the defence argued that the prosecution had failed to prove that the doses of morphine and diamorphine had killed the three men, nor had the Crown proved the experienced family GP knew exactly what effects the drugs would have on his seriously-ill patients.

He was cleared of all charges after a six-week trial.

But just 18 hours later officers announced they would be investigating other deaths.

After months of scrutiny, police announced there would be no further action in February this year.

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