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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006, 13:52 GMT
Reviews for pathologist's cases
Dr Michael Heath
Dr Heath resigned after his conduct was called into question
The convictions in nine murder and manslaughter cases that involved a former Home Office pathologist's evidence are being reviewed.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission is looking into the cases involving Dr Michael Heath, who quit after criticism from the forensic pathology watchdog.

One case is that of Michael Stone, serving life for the murders in July 1996 of Lin and Megan Russell, in Kent.

The attorney general has ruled out a wholesale review of Mr Heath's cases.

A spokesman for Lord Goldsmith said: "The attorney general believes that the normal appeal procedures, and where appropriate the involvement of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), should be sufficient."

'Cause for concern'

The CCRC is also understood to be looking at cases involving another forensic pathologist, Dr Paula Lannas, who was removed from the Home Office register three years ago.

The CCRC, which refers convictions to the Court of Appeal when it suspects there may have been a miscarriage of justice, trawled through 54 homicide cases involving Dr Heath.

Five convictions have given officials cause for concern and are to be investigated in more detail.

Four others are already being considered, including that of Stone.

His solicitors have asked the commission to examine Dr Heath's post-mortem examination findings, though this evidence forms only one part of their submission.

In 1998, Stone was convicted of killing Lin Russell and her six-year-old daughter Megan, in Chillenden, in a hammer attack - nine-year-old Josie Russell survived.

His convictions were quashed three years later, but he was found guilty in a retrial later that year and lost an appeal last year.

Evidence 'discredited'

Last June, the convictions of three men on trial over the murder of a man at a flat in Plumstead, London, in 1996, were quashed after a judge ruled Dr Heath's evidence about the cause of death had been "discredited".

Dr Heath, who was appointed to his role in 1991, resigned from the Home Office register last month after the Advisory Board for Forensic Pathology criticised his post-mortem examination evidence in two separate murder cases.

In both cases, men accused of killing their partners were cleared. The panel said Dr Heath's work had been based on "an unacceptable level of speculation".

CCRC commissioner David Jessel said it was ready to consider any further cases where individuals felt they had been wrongfully convicted because of Dr Heath's evidence.

Pathologists' evidence is often marginal to a conviction, he said, but in cases where the time of the time of death or the nature of the fatal injury were contentious, evidence could prove decisive.

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24 Nov 05 |  Suffolk

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