Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust agrees compensation protocol for families of David Fuller’s mortuary victims

1st December 2022
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Background

In 2020, David Fuller was arrested for the murders of Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce in 1987. During the initial investigation by police, evidence was found of David Fuller abusing at least 102 bodies in two hospital mortuaries. The files located at David Fuller’s residence were dated between 2008 and 2020, with millions of images and videos of his abuse of bodies kept on discs and hard drives. David Fuller also labelled some of these files with the names of his victims. The youngest victim was aged 9. The oldest had reached 100 when she died.

David Fuller entered a not guilty plea to the mortuary offences in January 2021, but subsequently pleaded guilty on 8th October 2021. He entered guilty pleas to the two murder charges two days later.

On 15th December 2021, Cheema Grubb J sentenced him to life imprisonment, with no release provisions, for the murder offences and 12 years’ imprisonment for the sexual offences. She commented, in her sentencing remarks, that Mr Fuller’s offending had “caused anguish both to those who knew your victims, but also numerous others who have no way of knowing whether their loved ones were the targets of your deviant interference … your victims told the court how their worlds have been made so much darker because of your monstrous conduct … They are haunted by your abuse … They describe being nauseated and heart-broken by the immorality of your abhorrent acts. You have sullied and stolen fond memories, and ripped open old wounds … Many speak of inconsolable guilt of not being able to protect the vulnerable, of their own and their family’s damaged mental health, the impossibility of un-knowing what they have been told happened, of un-seeing the images they have imagined. It has shaken their sense of being able to trust the world, trust hospitals, predict the respect and decency with which those who are vulnerable will be treated … The shock of what you did has caused a kind of white noise which is inescapable.”

On 8th November 2021, The Secretary of State for Health & Social Care announced in the House of Commons that he would empanel an “independent inquiry” to investigate the wider circumstances of the offending of David Fuller. The purpose of the inquiry would be to investigate (a) how David Fuller was able to commit the sexual abuse of bodies within Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, (b) what lessons can be learned across all NHS Trusts to ensure this does not happen again, and (c) how future abuse of deceased bodies can be prevented in both Local Authority mortuaries and privately-run funeral homes. The Inquiry is ongoing and is presently due to report in early 2023.

A number of family members of David Fuller’s mortuary victims have suffered psychological injury as a result of learning of their relatives abuse. At least one has taken their own life after learning of the abuse.

Statement

Dean Wilson Solicitors currently represent 80 relatives of Fuller’s mortuary victims. They have intimated claims against Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust “The Trust” for violations of Article 3 (torture and degrading treatment) and Article 8 (right to private life) of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The Trust has agreed to put in place a voluntary compensation scheme. The Trust does not admit that it is legally liable to pay damages to close family members of the deceased victims of Fuller. However, the Trust recognises that close family members of the deceased victims have arguable claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 against the Defendant, and the Protocol is intended to deal with the compensation of those arguable claims. The Defendant recognises that Fuller’s actions have caused distress and in some cases may have caused psychiatric injury to close family members and – without admission of liability – wishes to pay compensation to close family members without reference to any third parties for the purpose of this Protocol. The Protocol is intended to provide a means by which fair compensation can be paid to close family members with little or no delay whilst keeping legal costs at a reasonable level.

Family members will be eligible provided they can demonstrate a close relationship of love and affection of the deceased. The protocol provides for an assessment by an independent barrister where eligibility cannot be agreed.

Level of damages paid will vary depending on the psychological reaction by each individual Claimant. Medical experts will assess this and make recommendations for treatment. Claimants will also be able to claim for out of pocket expenses.

Ben Davey Senior Chartered Legal Executive representing the families said:

“It is a national scandal that David Fuller was able to perpetuate his offences on NHS property over such a long period of time. The families of each of the victims have had a difficult enough time as it is grieving for the death of a loved one. They have then had the additional trauma on top of this of learning that their family member’s corpse was abused whilst under the care of the NHS. I am pleased that this compensation scheme that has been agreed recognises that payments must be made to the family members, and makes appropriate provision for psychological treatment where it is reasonably required.”


For more information, please contact Ben Davey at bd@deanwilson.co.uk or 01273 249200. Alternatively, please get in touch with a member of the Medical Injury Team.