Part Nine; Think Dirty; Trupti Patel; Another Victim Of "Meadow's Law;"
"AFTER THE TRIAL STARTED, TWO KEY PROSECUTION WITNESSES WHO HAD EXAMINED MIA'S BODY AND HAD DISPUTED MRS PATEL'S CLAIM THAT THE FRACTURED RIBS WERE CAUSED BY HER ATTEMPTS AT RESUSCITATION, SAID THAT THEY WERE NO LONGER SURE. PROFESSOR RUPERT RISDON, A PAEDIATRIC PATHOLOGIST, WROTE TO THE JUDGE SAYING THAT HE HAD FOUND EVIDENCE OF RIB FRACTURES CAUSED BY RESUSCITATION IN THREE CHILDREN THAT HE HAD EXAMINED IN THE PREVIOUS MONTH ALONE, AND NATHANIEL CAREY, A HOME OFFICE PATHOLOGIST, SAID HE COULD "NO LONGER STATE CATEGORICALLY THAT THE RIB FRACTURES WERE NOT DUE TO RESUSCITATION."
Trupti Patel went through the hellish experience of being charged with killing three of her babies on the opinion of Sir Roy Meadow.
As the author of a note in Wikipedia pointed out: "Sir Roy's dictum that "one sudden infant death in a family is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder unless proven otherwise" became known as "Meadow's Law."
"Meadow's Law" unfortunately did not take into consideration that Patel might suffer from an undiscovered genetic defect: Her maternal grandmother had lost five children in infancy,
"Trupti Patel is a qualified pharmacist from Berkshire, England, who was acquitted in 2003 of murdering three of her children," the note begins.
"The three children were Amar (5 September 1997–10 December 1997), Jamie (21 June 1999–6 July 1999), and Mia (14 May 2001–5 June 2001)," it continues.
"Trupti Patel was born into a family of Punjabis who had moved from India to England.
She spent her childhood in Lancashire, and attended grammar school.
She then went to study at King's College London, where she gained a B.Sc. in pharmacy.
Around this time, she met her future husband, Jayant, a qualified electrical engineer who later worked as a business analyst for British Telecom.
They were married within seven months, and their first child, a girl, was born in 1995.
Their second child, a boy, died unexpectedly at the age of two months, in December 1997.
Eighteen months later, another boy died aged just fifteen days.
Postmortem examinations yielded no explanations for the deaths, but a daughter who died at the age of twenty-two days in June 2001 was found to have four broken ribs.
A police investigation was started, which led to Trupti Patel's arrest in May 2002. She was charged with the murder of her three babies.
The case, which was heard at Reading crown court, was one of a number of famous court cases in Britain in which mothers who reported more than one cot death were accused of murder.
It was also one of a number of cases in which evidence was given by Professor Sir Roy Meadow, a controversial paediatrician whose testimony helped to convict Sally Clark, Angela Cannings, and Donna Anthony of murdering their babies; all three women were cleared on appeal.
Sir Roy's dictum that "one sudden infant death in a family is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder unless proven otherwise" became known as "Meadow's Law", and his claim that the likelihood of two babies dying from natural causes in the same family was one in 73 million prompted the Royal Statistical Society to write a letter of complaint to the Lord Chancellor, stating that the figure had "no statistical basis"; other experts said that when genetic and environmental factors were taken into account, the figure was closer to one in 200.
Sir Roy Meadow, giving evidence for the prosecution, listed four indications of Mrs Patel's guilt. One was the injuries suffered by the third child to die.
Mrs Patel's explanation was that the rib fractures had resulted from her attempts at resuscitation.
The second and third points were that the children had had several medical examinations, and had been well until shortly before their deaths.
The fourth point was that three consecutive children had died, and that, according to Sir Roy, "in general, sudden and unexpected death does not run in families."
One of the defence witnesses was genetics specialist Professor Michael Patton, who testified that several cot deaths in the same family could be caused by an undiscovered genetic defect, and that the chances of experiencing more than one cot death could be as high as one in twenty.
The court heard evidence that Mrs Patel's maternal grandmother had lost five children in infancy, but that her remaining seven children were "alive and well".
By the time the case came to court, Sir Roy's claims about the likelihood of a second cot death in the same family had been largely discredited.
Sally Clark's conviction for the murder of her sons had been overturned some months earlier, and Angela Cannings's guilt was disputed by many.
After the trial started, two key prosecution witnesses who had examined Mia's body and had disputed Mrs Patel's claim that the fractured ribs were caused by her attempts at resuscitation, said that they were no longer sure.
Professor Rupert Risdon, a paediatric pathologist, wrote to the judge saying that he had found evidence of rib fractures caused by resuscitation in three children that he had examined in the previous month alone, and Nathaniel Carey, a Home Office pathologist, said he could "no longer state categorically that the rib fractures were not due to resuscitation."
On 11 June 2003, at the end of a six-and-a-half week trial, thirty-five-year-old Trupti Patel was acquitted of all charges.
She announced shortly after her acquittal that her husband would have a vasectomy, as they were unwilling to take the risk of having another child.
A court order had been imposed on her after the death of Mia in 2001, forbidding her to be alone with her, or to cook for her, and that order remained in force following her acquittal."
Next Posting: "Part Nine: Think Dirty: How a misunderstanding of cultural differences led to Trupti Patel being charged with murdering her babies."
My interest in forensic pathology began with my Toronto Star investigative reporting into once famed since disgraced former doctor Charles Smith. I began this Blog after retiring from the Star in 2006 in order to follow the aftermath into the independent Goudge inquiry into many of Smith's cases. I have now begun to focus on cases involving flawed forensic science no matter where they occur (the recent Amanda Knox prosecution in Italy, for example) and am fascinated by the interest in the Blog from people in countries throughout the world. In another development, my interest in "junk science" "pseudo-experts" and the miscarriages of justice they all too often cause has drawn me deeply into the on-going U.S. death penalty debate where so many troubling cases involve issues relating to DNA and other developments in the world of forensic science. For all of this I rely on my experience as a reporter at the Toronto Star, my work as a lawyer in Ontario's criminal courts, and my abhorrence of injustice. Please send cases and developments which may be of interest to this Blog to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read on! Harold Levy.