• Security audits should have picked up unusual pattern of behaviour, says victim’s sister
  • She questions why he was allowed in the mortuary by himself
  • Trust has pledged to learn lessons

The sister of one of David Fuller’s hospital mortuary victims has questioned why his crimes were not uncovered earlier.

The woman – whom HSJ is not naming, at her request – was contacted by police last month and told her sister, who died in her 40s, was one of the identified victims of Mr Fuller, who pleaded guilty to 44 crimes involving female bodies in hospital mortuaries in the Kent and Sussex Hospital and the Tunbridge Wells Hospital.

Police have found evidence that Mr Fuller, who worked as a maintenance supervisor, violated 100 bodies, 81 of which have now been identified.

She said that the police family liaison officers who supported her initially were “absolutely superb” but that once she was in touch with hospital staff, they were keen to stress Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust, which ran the two hospitals, was not to blame. 

“The woman I spoke to had been given her lines to take – that they had been inspected by the Human Tissue Authority and everything was fine.”

But she said the case had revealed “really basic security stuff that any kind of big organisation should have been all over. If they had had proper procedures in place this could have been stopped almost instantly.”

She said she had been told that Mr Fuller, who had worked in the NHS since 1989, visited the mortuaries thousands of times – an unusual pattern of behaviour which should have been picked up in a security audit.

“I find if baffling that no one was doing any checks on access to the mortuary. It seems he was in there thousands of times and that should have been picked up – he was there more often than the mortuary staff.” She said it seemed that at no point had the trust asked, “why is someone actively seeking out the morgue – an area many people avoid?”

She said temperatures in the mortuary at the Tunbridge Wells Hospital – which was opened in 2010 – were remotely monitored so he should have had no reason to be in the mortuary, but this did not seem to have been questioned or challenged, she said.

And she asked why anyone was allowed in the mortuary without other staff being present. HTA standards say there should be “oversight of visitors and contractors who have a legitimate right of access”. Mr Fuller – who was employed by the trust’s PFI partner while he worked at the Tunbridge Wells Hospital – had unfettered access to the mortuary, including at times when other staff had finished work.

The trust did not want to comment on the woman’s questions but referred HSJ to the statement issued after the conviction of Mr Fuller in which chief executive Miles Scott apologised to relatives and pledged the trust would learn lessons. An independent investigation is under way.

However, HSJ was separately told aspects of monitoring the fridges even at the newer hospital could not be done remotely, and that anyone in Mr Fuller’s role would have legitimately accessed the mortuary for work purposes many times over the 30 years he worked at the trust.

Mr Fuller’s crimes were only discovered when DNA advances led to his arrest for the 1987 murders of two Tunbridge Wells women. As police searched his house in December 2020, they came across photos and videos showing the offences in the mortuaries from 2008 onwards.

He admitted these at a court hearing in October but his crimes could not be reported until the conclusion of the murder trial. On Thursday he changed his plea and admitted the murders.