'Morgue monster' David Fuller allowed to abuse bodies for 15 years amid 'persistent failures' by NHS hospital bosses

28 November 2023, 14:02 | Updated: 28 November 2023, 15:56

David Fuller
David Fuller will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Picture: Kent Police. Picture: Kent Police

By Kit Heren

A man who sexually abused over the corpses of over 100 women and girls was able to offend for so long because of "serious failings" at the NHS hospital where he worked, an inquiry has found.

Hospital electrician David Fuller, who also murdered two women in the 1980s, abused 101 dead women and girls at Kent and Sussex Hospital and the Tunbridge Wells Hospital between 2005 and 2020.

His victims were aged between nine and 100. Fuller, 69, was jailed in 2021 to a whole-life term in prison.

An independent inquiry set up after his imprisonment found on Tuesday that "there were missed opportunities to question Fuller's working practices" at the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, which manages the hospitals.

Inquiry chairman Sir Jonathan Michael told LBC's Shelagh Fogarty: "The fundamental problem was actually the lack of control and supervision of people who had access [to the morgue].

Read more: 'Why do they look... dead?': Horrifying moment police find images of ‘morgue monster’ defiling corpses

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David Fuller
David Fuller. Picture: Alamy

"Why was an electrician allowed to have so much free access to the mortuary?"

The inquiry found that hospital managers were aware of "problems" in the running of the mortuary from 2008.

The inquiry has made 17 recommendations to prevent "similar atrocities" taking place.

Those include putting in CCTV cameras in the mortuaries, making sure non-mortuary staff are always accompanied and staff do not leave corpses out of fridges overnight.

Bosses had "little regard" to who was going into the mortuary. Fuller went in 444 times in a year, with his visits going "unnoticed and unchecked".

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Sir Jonathan said that Fuller's crimes "had caused shock and horror across our country and beyond".

He told reporters on Monday: "Failures of management, of governance, of regulation, failure to follow standard policies and procedures, together with a persistent lack of curiosity, all contributed to the creation of the environment in which he was able to offend, and to do so for 15 years without ever being suspected or caught.

"Over the years, there were missed opportunities to question Fuller's working practices."

He added that it was now time to work out who "should be held responsible" for the "serious failings".

"Had the measures that I am recommending been in place when Fuller was working at the trust, I firmly believe his offending could have been prevented," Sir Jonathan said.

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"The fact that the trust was apparently improving its overall performance does not in any way excuse the failings that allowed Fuller to offend."

The mother of one of the victims said the findings showed hospital bosses' conduct was an "absolute disgrace".

Nevres Kamal told LBC: "It's bad enough losing your loved ones but to then be be told that they were abused in the mortuary on numerous occasions and it could have been prevented - I mean where do you go with that."

Family accounts detailed in the report itself share the reactions and impact on victims' relatives.

One anonymous relative whose mother was a victim said: "Even though I love the NHS, I blame them for this. Well, that particular hospital I blame for this... They need to sack the CEO, as I can't believe he's still in the hospital."

Another account, from a victim's husband read: "(T)he staff of the NHS are fantastic. We all know that they're doing a fantastic job with the resources that they've got.

"Don't blame the foot soldiers, blame the generals. Blame the leaders. Blame the people who have put the procedures into place."

Health minister Maria Caulfield apologised on behalf of the government after the inquiry's report was released.

She said: "The report makes for harrowing reading. I want to profoundly apologise on behalf of the Government and the NHS, and commit that lessons will be learnt.

"We fully welcome the report and will ensure that there is a full response to the recommendations in spring 2024, and that lessons are learned across the wider NHS so that no family has to go through this experience again.

"A lot of work has already been done to review mortuary safety since these crimes were first revealed.

"However, we should not be complacent. It is important that the whole system remains alert and accountable at all levels, and that any concerns are swiftly identified and escalated through the appropriate governance processes."

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said that the report contained "important lessons for us".

Chief executive Miles Scott said: "The vast majority of these recommendations have already been actioned in the period since Fuller's arrest and we will be implementing the remaining recommendations as quickly as possible.

"The inquiry team told us if they came across any conduct of concern, such as potential disciplinary offences or breaches of professional codes of conduct, they would tell us.

"We have received no such notification but we will be studying the report carefully to make our own assessment."