Socialist Worker

Freddy Patel: a scandal that goes deeper than Tomlinson

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2320

Supporters of the family of Ian Tomlinson protesting outside Scotland Yard in 2010 (Pic: Smallman )

Supporters of the family of Ian Tomlinson protesting outside Scotland Yard in 2010 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The General Medical Council (GMC) has struck off pathologist Freddy Patel after ruling that his “integrity cannot be relied upon”.

Patel conducted a botched autopsy on Ian Tomlinson who died after being hit by PC Simon Harwood at a G20 protest in London in 2009.

Patel’s judgment is now being questioned in several other cases where people died after contact with the police. They include those of Alan Sweeney, Wayne Douglas and Roger Sylvester. Families of those whose bodies have been examined by Patel are now calling for a public inquiry into his conduct.

Alan Sweeney died aged 23 in 1991. His father Bill has accused police of assaulting Alan and giving a hospital false information that resulted in a fatal blood infusion. The police deny the allegations.

Freddy Patel conducted the post-mortem. He concluded that Alan died of natural causes—despite evidence of cuts and bruises to his body.

“I find it baffling,” said Bill. “The report specifically states that there were no signs of violence, which I find astonishing because he [Patel] described them in detail.”

In 1995 Wayne Douglas, a 25 year old black man, died in Brixton police station in south London. Riots broke out in Brixton in response.


A post-mortem report by Patel claimed Wayne had died of “hypertensive heart disease”. Wayne had no history of heart problems. A later inquest ruled that police restraint caused Wayne’s heart failure.

Police had held him face down with his hands cuffed behind his back four times. Yet the jury at the inquest gave a verdict of accidental death.

Roger Sylvester, a black man with mental health problems, died after police restrained him in north London in 1999. The GMC reprimanded Patel after he told reporters that Roger was a crack cocaine user, a claim Roger’s family strongly denied.

Hassan Mahamdallie is a former Socialist Worker reporter. He said, “When you look at deaths in police custody, Patel’s name comes up time and again. Why did he conduct a post-mortem on Ian Tomlinson when he has been discredited for years?”

Patel ruled that Ian had died of a heart attack. An inquest jury ruled that Ian had died from unlawful killing. However, a trial jury found PC Harwood not guilty of Tomlinson’s manslaughter in July this year.

Hassan said, “This raises a lot of questions about how the justice system treats families. This isn’t about individuals.

“It’s about the police, the justice system and the collusion of the press and the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Any public inquiry into deaths in police custody has to examine those relationships.”

Figure it out

  • 23 deaths in police custody in 2011, including two from shooting

  • 20 percent of deaths in police custody in England and Wales since 1990 are related to the Metropolitan Police

  • 0 police officers convicted of murder or manslaughter following IPCC investigations

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Article information

Tue 11 Sep 2012, 15:58 BST
Issue No. 2320
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