The inquiry into the circumstances and implications of David Fuller’s crimes will aim to publish its final findings and recommendations by the middle of 2023, according to an announcement made on its website this morning. The initial report – which will focus on events at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust, where the assaults took place – is due to be published at some point this year.
When the inquiry was announced in November, health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said he had asked for an interim report early in 2022. The full report – which will look at the national implications of his actions and any issues identified – was expected later in the year.
David Fuller was jailed for life in December 2021 for the 1987 murders of two women. But when police searched his house after his arrest, they found video and photographic evidence that he had abused women’s bodies over a 12-year period in mortuaries at the now-closed Kent and Sussex Hospital and then the Tunbridge Wells Hospital, both run by MTW. He pleaded guilty to 44 charges relating to this and was given additional sentences for these and other sex crimes totalling 12 years.
Sir Jonathan Michael, who heads the independent inquiry, said he would be writing to families of the victims from tomorrow to ask their views on draft terms of reference for the inquiry. Police have managed to identify 81 of the 100 women whom Mr Fuller assaulted and have been in contact with family members since mid-2021.
“The task my team and I face is challenging but vitally important. We are committed to conducting our work with determination and with sensitivity and compassion for all those so horrendously affected,” he said.
“Understanding how these offences took place in hospital settings without detection over such a long period of time will require a focused and detailed approach. I am determined that my team and I will be objective and thorough in all our work. I am equally determined that we will provide an opportunity for those families and staff who have been directly affected by the actions of David Fuller to share their experiences and information with the Inquiry in ways that are sensitive and supportive.“
Responding to news of the delay, a spokesperson for the inquiry said: “In order to understand how these offences took place without detection over such a long period of time and how to ensure they cannot be repeated elsewhere, will require a focused and detailed approach. In addition, we wanted to provide an opportunity for all families and staff who have been directly affected by the actions of David Fuller to share their experiences and information with the Inquiry.”
HSJ reported last week that solicitors representing some families were considering a legal challenge to the independent inquiry. They argued it should be on a statutory basis – which would mean witnesses could be compelled to give evidence – and questioned whether Sir Jonathan, the former chief executive of three NHS trusts, was the right person to lead it.
Mr Fuller worked in the hospitals from 1989 until his arrest in late 2020. He repeatedly accessed the hospital mortuaries under the pretence of carrying out checks or doing work, a guise which allowed him access to the bodies of his victims. Police found evidence of assaults from 2008 until the month before he was arrested in 2020.
The inquiry is asking for any former colleagues to share any information they think might be helpful – and for families affected by his actions who want to contact it – to do so via the website www.fuller.independent-inquiry.uk.