An inquiry into morgue rapist David Fuller will probe what employment checks were made on the double murderer, while also drawing on the Jimmy Savile inquiry to look at how he was able to defile 102 corpses.
Fuller, 67, was sentenced to two whole life orders for the 1987 murders of Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce in December last year.
He also admitted a further 51 offences related to sexually abusing more than 100 victims, of which 82 have been identified and one of whom was just nine, while working as an electrician in the mortuaries of Kent and Sussex and Tunbridge Wells hospitals over more than a decade.
An independent inquiry into how Fuller escaped unpunished for so long, as well as how similar offences can be prevented in the future, was launched by Health Secretary Sajid Javid last year.
Today, inquiry chair Sir Jonathan Michael confirmed the probe draw on ‘recommendations from relevant inquiries’, including ‘the investigations into Jimmy Savile’.
It will also delve into how Fuller was able to pass employment checks to work at the hospitals despite being convicted of 26 counts of burglary in 1973 while living in Portsmouth.
Fuller was sentenced to two whole life orders for the double murder in December last year after spending decades living a normal life
It was not until 2015 that Fuller had to undergo a criminal record check in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations.
It then emerged he had lied about his burglary conviction in order to secure his role as an electrician at the hospitals.
The inquiry is also set to probe whether Fuller carried out any further, not yet identified offences while working at the hospital and if he colluded with anyone to hide his heinous crimes.
Setting out the terms of reference for the inquiry, Mr Michael also said it will look into any complaints regarding Fuller at the time and how they were handled, while families will also give anonymous accounts of how they have been impacted by the offences.
After taking the lives of two young women in their prime, Fuller went on to commit further crimes of almost unimaginable evil – raping and sexually molesting the bodies of at least 100 women and girls in mortuaries to which he had access as a hospital electrician
Wendy Knell (left) and Caroline Pierce (right) were beaten and strangled by Fuller before being sexually assaulted in in Tunbridge Wells, Kent
The ‘Terms of Reference’ for the independent inquiry into David Fuller
Following consultation with families of the victims and other interested parties, inquiry chair Sir Jonathan Michael says the probe will look at:
- The level of Fuller’s supervision and what mechanisms were in place to check his working practices
- Employment checks and whether there were earlier offences
- Whether the Trust should perform additional checks for staff with mortuary access
- The Trust’s arrangements for post-mortem examinations
- Whether there was a process for places receiving the deceased from the Trust, for example, funeral directors, to raise concerns
- The Trust’s policies for access to restricted areas, including monitoring of swipe card access and CCTV
- Recommendations from relevant inquiries and investigations, for example the investigations into Jimmy Savile
- The role of the Human Tissue Authority
- Procedures and practices of mortuaries in non-hospital settings
- The interactions between private contractors and the NHS
- Pre-employment checks for locum mortuary staff, and the application of safeguarding legislation to the deceased.
He added: ‘On my appointment as Chair, I made the commitment that I would seek the views of the families affected by Fuller’s actions on the Inquiry’s draft terms of reference, to ensure they remain at the heart of this investigation.
‘All the families who gave consent via Kent Police to be contacted by the Inquiry, or who approached the Inquiry directly to give their consent, were contacted and invited to share their views on our draft terms of reference.
‘I would like to extend my gratitude to families for the considered responses that we received.
‘Now that the terms of reference have been published, we can begin our work to collect evidence and information both from those who have been affected, and from the organisations involved.
‘We are already in contact with many of them. But I urge anyone else affected by, or with information about, the issues involved in our Inquiry to contact us as soon as possible – your views, experiences and knowledge could be vital to our work.
‘My team and I are focused on pressing ahead so that families can receive the answers they need and deserve, and changes are made to prevent a recurrence of the atrocities committed by David Fuller.’
An initial report on matters relating to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust is expected by the middle of this year, before a final report looking at the broader national picture and the wider lessons for the NHS is to be published by the middle of 2023.
However, earlier this month three law firms have launched joint Judicial Review proceedings calling for a full judge-led inquiry.
The proceedings have been issued by Amanda Miah, whose mother’s body was abused by Fuller in 2018, on behalf of a number of families who are ‘unhappy about the actions taken by the government and inquiry to date.’
The families of Fullers’ victims slammed the current inquiry as too soft and questioned its independence.
They do not believe Mr Michael is the right man for the job as he is a former NHS Chief Executive himself.
Azra Kemal (pictured) was ‘violated’ at least three times while in the morgue at Tunbridge Wells Hospital
The families have also expressed concern that the non-statutory inquiry lacks the power to force disclosure of evidence from the police or NHS bodies, and cannot compel witnesses to attend proceedings.
They are also not entitled to funding of reasonable legal costs.
As it stands, hearings will be held in private – ‘leading to accusations that this is deliberate so that witnesses can avoid public scrutiny as part of a cover up’ – according to the lawyers.
Fuller was identified as the prime suspect in the murders of Ms Knell and Ms Pierce after a DNA breakthrough achieved by analysing genetic material found at the crime scenes and searching criminal databases for relatives.
The electrician was totally unknown to police at the time of his arrest in 2020, but officers discovered a partial DNA match in one of his relatives after combing through a list of 1,000 people on the database who could be related to the killer.
After investigating Fuller, officers arrested him at his home in Heathfield, East Sussex, where he lived with his family.
Detectives said he did not look surprised, but he denied any involvement and said he had no knowledge of the case or the area where the women lived.
During a search of his home, police found hard drives, floppy discs and CDs with 14 million images of sex offences – including filming himself committing the heinous acts. Images of him attacking corpses were also discovered.
Some victims were abused on multiple occasions and some both before and after post-mortem examinations.
His youngest victim was just nine, two were aged 16, and the oldest was 100. The identities of the remaining 20 victims may never be known.
Fuller got away with his crimes for nearly 35 years by maintaining a front of middle-class domesticity and respectability.
To those who knew him, at least casually, he was a family man, a thrice-married father-of-four and a seemingly doting husband and father.
Investigators believe he would have ‘undoubtedly’ carried on offending if he had not been identified.
Morgue rapist David Fuller: A timeline of the heinous offences
1973: Fuller grew up in a terraced house in Angerstein Road, Portsmouth, and was living at the address when he was convicted of 26 counts of burglary.
June 23, 1987: Ms Knell is found dead in her apartment in Guildford Road on by her boyfriend. The bed, duvet and pillows were bloodstained, and her bloodstained head was resting on a towel. Police could find no signs of forced entry, and neighbours heard nothing through the flat’s thin walls.
November 24, 1987: Ms Pierce, manager at a popular restaurant, is murdered by Fuller. However, it is not until three weeks later that her body – naked apart from a pair of tights – is found in a water-filled dyke of a remote field on Romney Marsh in Kent.
January 1989: Fuller begins working as an electrical maintenance craftsman at Kent and Sussex and Tunbridge Wells hospitals.
2008: The first evidence of Fuller having filmed and photographed himself sexually abusing the bodies of dozens of women at the mortuaries.
2012: Kent Police reveals it has a full DNA profile of their prime suspect for the murders of Ms Knell and Ms Pierce.
2015: Fuller has to undergo a criminal record check for the first time in the wake of revelations Jimmy Savile sexually assaulted patients. It emerges he had convictions for burglaries in the 1970s that he is understood to have previously lied about.
December 2020: Fuller is identified as the prime suspect in the murders after a DNA breakthrough achieved by analysing genetic material found at the crime scenes and searching criminal databases for relatives. Officers arrest him at his home in Heathfield, East Sussex, where he lived with his family, in the early hours of December 3.
January 2021: Fuller admits responsibility for both killings at Maidstone Crown Court, but his barrister says he will deny murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He is later charged with additional offences relating to the sexual abuse of more than 100 victims.
November 4, 2021: After his trial gets underway, Fuller changes his plea to guilty. He also admits a further 51 offences related to sexually abusing at least 102 victims, of which 82 have been identified, in the mortuaries over more than a decade.
December 15, 2021: Fuller appears for sentencing at Maidstone Crown Court.