Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Home Office Pathologists

The role of the Pathologist is still an integral part of criminal investigation, but advances in medical, forensic and surgical techniques mean that they are much more thorough than ever.  The most famous was Bernard Spilsbury but over the years, his reputation has not lived up to his virtual "God" status.  Spilsbury was a showman who used flamboyance, arrogance and a complete unwilling to listen to any other Pathologists opinion.  During the infamous "Brides in The Bath" murder trial of George Smith, Spilsbury gave his infamous demonstration of how Smith MAY have drowned a couple of his wives.  It DID NOT prove that was what happened.  But such was Spilsburys` growing reputation, that juries believed every word that came from his mouth.  If another Pathologist disagreed with his findings, he simply dismissed it as unimportant or irrelevant.  A view is that some people were hanged on Spilsburys` say-so, because nobody would dare question his findings.  Today, he would not get away with it.

    More brilliant Pathologists followed but for some reason they have never been given the "Superman" status that Spilsbury enjoyed.  Sir Sydney Smith, Walter Grace, Robert Glaister, Eric Gardner, Keith Simpson.  Professor Glaisters` work on the infamous Buck Ruxton case.  Ruxton was a doctor whose wife and housekeeper mysteriously disappeared, and much later bones were discovered in Scotland(Ruxton lived in Lancaster).  Prof. Glaister put together as much of the skull as possible and a picture of Mrs Ruxton was superimposed over the skull, and it was a match.  Prof. Glaisters` work was a forensic first but he never received the adulation that Splisbury would have received if he had done it.

    Walter Grace was a lecturer at Liverpool University in medicine and forensics.  He also was the Home Office Pathologist for the North West of England.  He had some cases such as the Red Wharf Bay Murder, the Neston Murder(Don`t know about this one) and the murder of Clara Cropper in Ellesmere Port.  Dr. Grace was not so conceited as to not ask other Pathologists for their opinions.  He knew Spilsbury, Simpson, Gardner, etc.  He was remembered as having a gentle manner in teaching his students.

    Keith Simpson was the main man in London and his crowning achievement was the notorious Acid Bath Murders committed by John Haigh.  He submerged his victims into huge barrels of acid and tried to dissolve them.  This did not work entirely and he poured the contents of the barrels into his yard outside his workshop.  After his arrest, he thought that they would not find any identifying remains, but he did not count on Prof. Simpson.  He found numerous human remains, including human fat, teeth, etc.  The teeth were identified as belonging to one of the victims.  Haigh was sentenced to death and hanged.  His number of victims was six and it was all for money.  He liked to live the high life, and when it was coming to an end, he sought fresh victims to fleece and then kill.  He also claimed he drank the blood of his victims, but this was to get an insanity plea and avoid the noose.  It failed.