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Former Darent Valley and Fawkham Manor surgeon Mohammed Suhaib Sait trial continues as colleague takes stand over malicious communication charge

A doctor falsely accused of sexually assaulting a patient in an anonymous letter has spoken about how “devastating and upsetting” it was.

Dr Michael Thilagarajah was giving evidence today in the trial of former top surgeon Mohammed Sait who is accused of fraud, forgery and sending a malicious communication.

Mohammed Suhaib Sait has been accused of penning a letter accusing a colleague of sexual assault
Mohammed Suhaib Sait has been accused of penning a letter accusing a colleague of sexual assault

Orthopaedic specialist Sait denies five charges relating to his time at Fawkham Manor Hospital in Longfield between 2011 and 2016.

The trial, which is taking place at the Nightingale Court at the Mercure Great Danes Hotel in Maidstone, previously heard the 61-year-old had allegedly inflated costs for knee operations to insurers AXA and Aviva by knowingly using the wrong procedure codes.

Prosectuor Serena Gates explained how a simpler and cheaper operation was given the code of W8200, while a more involved one to repair the joint was given W8230.

The court heard how on many of Sait’s theatre charge sheets started with the cheaper code but were changed at a later date to the more expensive code.

The malicious communication charge related to Dr Thilagarajah, who was also an orthopaedic surgeon at Fawkham Manor at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford.

In October 2016, a former patient of the surgeon received an anonymous typed letter from someone claiming to be a nurse.

The former Fawkham Manor Hospital. Stock picture
The former Fawkham Manor Hospital. Stock picture

This falsely accused Dr Thilagarajah of conducting unnecessary operations, doing them badly and sexually assaulting the patient while she was operated on.

Ms Gates said these claims were completely malicious and had no basis.

The experienced surgeon, who had replaced Sait as the orthopaedic representation on the hospital’s medical advisory committee, explained the hurt the allegations had caused.

Speaking about a meeting with executive director Valerie Power and a regional representative from BMI Healthcare, he said: “I was presented with the letter and was deeply shocked obviously, very upset.

“They very rapidly threw a load of corporate speak at me and suspended me on the spot.

“It was very upsetting, what I was being accused of was the opposite of how I run my practice and what I do. At that point, I had been working as a doctor for over 20 years. I’ve always been upfront and straight.”

Darent Valley Hospital. Stock picture
Darent Valley Hospital. Stock picture

The court heard how a similar bogus letter had been sent to the hospital previously about another patient of Dr Thilagarajah, accusing him of botching a transplant operation.

The doctor added: “I was expecting a rapid and speedy response after another bogus later, but it dragged on for weeks.

“It would’ve taken a conversation with three people who were in the theatre to resolve it. It’s devastating. You spend a career building up a reputation and skills to do a good job.

“I’m very straightforward and always practised in that way. My immediate colleagues knew it was rubbish but news spreads and it spreads among people further afield to different hospitals. It was a disaster, an absolute disaster.”

Forensic scientist Michael Scarborough told the court how he and another expert analysed the letter and found up to four people’s DNA on it.

He said it included Sait’s, the patient’s and a GP surgery worker the patient took the letter to after becoming concerned. The fourth person’s DNA couldn’t be identified.

“My immediate colleagues knew it was rubbish but news spreads...”

Mr Scarborough told the court how components of Sait’s DNA were found on the adhesive strip of the letter, but it wasn’t possible to find out which biological source – spit, blood, sweat etc – it had come from.

He added: “The sample which was tested was taken from the adhesive strips on the flap of the envelope and the main body of the envelope.”

The expert’s statement about the letter revealed he didn’t know around a month before the anonymous letter was sent that the patient had received a letter from Sait asking them to forward it on to their GP.

Defending, David Whittaker, asked Mr Scarborough whether handling this letter could have led to Sait’s DNA being found on the anonymous letter a month later.

Mr Scarborough said: “If this is the case and if the letter was received from Sait and had been handled by him, then there is a realistic opportunity of secondary transfer of DNA.

“DNA on the letter could be explained by indirect rather than direct transfer of DNA.”

The Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel is now doubling up as a court
The Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel is now doubling up as a court

The trial also heard from fellow orthopaedic surgeon and expert witness, Dr Jonathon Lovell, who explained he had analysed around 30 post-surgery documents from Sait’s procedures – 15 from AXA and 15 from Aviva.

Dr Lovell told the court he was an experienced knee surgeon and had previously taught classes about arthroscopic surgeries and meniscus repairs.

He said after reviewing the documents – which included medical notes and records, imaging such as MRIs and X-rays, and pre-operation codes – he couldn’t see any “clinical reason” why codes were changed before the operation to a different one after.

The accused, who disputes he was responsible for the note, started working at Darent Valley and Fawkham Manor in 2000.

Before lunch, Sait took to the stand and told how he had always wanted to pursue a career in medicine.

The father-of-four, who was born and educated in India, said: “From a very young age I was interested in serving people.”

The trial continues.

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