Pathologist wrongly records prisoner’s death as suicide

06:00 24 January 2022

A pathologist’s ‘sloppy mistakes’ left a prisoner’s family mistakenly believing he had committed suicide or been murdered just weeks before his release.

Adam Turner, 37, was told by the coroner on January 6 this year that his father James, 58, from Ipswich, had hanged himself four months earlier in Wayland Prison in Thetford.

This came as a shock to the family, who were so unconvinced by the findings that they strongly suspected the late Mr Turner had been murdered by another inmate.

“It was awful. My brothers and I were so confused,” her son Adam said.

“I had spoken to my dad three days earlier and he was in good spirits, ready for his release in two weeks and desperate to see his new grandchildren.

“I immediately thought he was murdered because there was no way on earth he killed himself just before he got out of there.

“He wouldn’t have done this to us.”

Adam Turner (left) with his father James and grandson Reuben. James also had three other sons: Daniel, Drew and Jordan.
– Credit: Adam Turner

Initially, following a police investigation, the family were assured the death was ‘natural’, but were told there would be a delay in finding out for sure due to a shortage of pathologists .

However, when the pathologist delivered his report to the coroner on January 5, his conclusion completely contradicted what the police had found.

He attributed the cause of death to hanging after apparently finding a crease on James’ neck from a ligature. The family was informed of the devastating news by telephone.

At this point, the police were asked to review their investigation, but found no evidence that Mr Turner had taken his own life.

After questioning the pathologist’s findings, it then became clear that he had in fact mixed up the post-mortem results.

According to the coroner’s office, the pathologist had dealt with two people with nearly identical names and “unfortunately” attributed the hanging death to the wrong Mr Turner.

HMP Wayland

HMP Wayland
– Credit: HMP Wayland

“The real cause of my father’s death was heart failure,” Adam explained. “But we had to spend four days thinking the worst.

“I don’t know how such sloppy mistakes can happen at this level.”

The Norfolk Supervising Coroner’s Office said this has never happened before and they are working with the pathology department to prevent it from happening again.

“We apologize for the distress this error has caused,” their spokesperson added.

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