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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 December 2005, 17:09 GMT
GP cleared of patients' murders
Dr Howard Martin and wife Theresa
Dr Martin was supported throughout by his wife Theresa
A retired family doctor has been found not guilty of murdering three of his patients with morphine overdoses.

A jury at Teesside Crown Court, cleared Dr Howard Martin, 71, of the charges after a six-week trial.

He had denied killing Harry Gittins, 74, of Newton Aycliffe, Stanley Weldon, 74, of Coundon Grange, and Frank Moss, 59, of Eldon, Co Durham.

The former GP used to practise in Newton Aycliffe, but now lives in Penmaenmawr, North Wales.

The married father-of-four was accused of murdering Mr Moss on March 14, 2003, Mr Weldon four days later and Mr Gittins on January 22 last year.

The prosecution alleged he had administered huge doses of powerful painkilling drugs with the intention of killing them.

However, the defence argued that the prosecution had failed to prove that the doses of morphine and diamorphine had killed the three men, nor had the Crown proved the experienced family GP knew exactly what effects the drugs would have on his seriously-ill patients.

There were gasps and loud cries from the public gallery as the jury foreman delivered not guilty verdicts to all three charges.

Being prosecuted for murder came as a particularly bitter blow as he has spent nearly 50 years of his life caring for others, at personal sacrifice
Dr Martin's solicitor Sara Mason

Members of the dead men's families expressed disappointment at the verdict and said they felt that "justice had not been done".

Det Supt Harry Stephenson, who led the murder investigation, said: "In my 31 years as a police officer, this is one of my most disappointing days.

"We had a moral and legal obligation to investigate. I think we did that fairly."

He said he would be considering what action to take now.

Dr Martin's second wife, Theresa, 80, burst into tears as the jury delivered their verdicts.

Outside court Dr Martin's solicitor Sara Mason said the murder charges were a "bitter blow" after almost 50 years as a medic.

(l to r) Harry Gittins, Frank Moss and Stanley Weldon
The bodies of Mr Gittins, Mr Moss and Mr Weldon were exhumed

In a statement, she said: "Dr Martin has always maintained he was doing no more than doing his best to relieve the suffering of these three patients.

"He was legally entitled to do that and indeed it was his duty as their doctor to do that.

"Being prosecuted for murder came as a particularly bitter blow as he has spent nearly 50 years of his life caring for others, at personal sacrifice.

"He would like to thank his family, friends and very many of his patients for their unwavering support over the ordeal of the last 18 months.

"Dr Martin is now looking forward to going home."

After his solicitor finished reading the prepared statement, Dr Martin briefly answered reporters' questions.

He said: "I am relieved, very relieved. I've had a year and a half under house arrest and eight weeks of hell on earth."

Dr Martin refused to answer questions about whether the prosecution should ever have been brought in the first place.

Watch reaction from outside the court

Doctor backed by expert witness
14 Dec 05 |  England

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