Published: 16:32, 08 November 2021
| Updated: 17:54, 08 November 2021
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced there will be a public independent inquiry into how a hospital worker could abuse at least 100 women in mortuaries over 12 years, and has also apologised to the families of the victims.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will also review the penalties for sexual assaults on corpses, after the heinous actions of David Fuller, 67.
Double murderer Fuller abused at least 100 dead bodies between 2008 and November 2020 at Kent and Sussex Hospital, and then Tunbridge Wells Hospital. He worked at both hospitals.
Last Thursday, the electrician and father, of Heathfield, East Sussex, admitted murdering Wendy Knell, 25, and Caroline Pierce, 20, in 1987.
Following his murder arrest in December 2020, police conducted a thorough search of the hoarder's home.
Concealed behind a cupboard in a wardrobe, in Fuller's home office, they found videos and photos which Fuller had taken, of him assaulting the bodies of dead women.
Police say they have evidence of Fuller violating 100 women, with 81 identified so far.
In a statement delivered to the House of Commons this afternoon, Mr Javid said an independent inquiry would replace an investigation instigated by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust (MTW).
Mr Javid acknowledged that MTW had set up an investigation, with an independent chairman, but added: "I believe we must go further. And so today I can announce that I am replacing the trust investigation with an independent inquiry.
"The inquiry will look into the circumstances surrounding the offences committed at the hospital and their national implications.
"It will help us understand how these offences took place without detection in the trust."
He said it would also look into whether there were any areas where early action by the trust was necessary and then "consider other national issues, including for the NHS."
The inquiry will be chaired by Sir Jonathan Michael, a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and a former chief executive of three NHS trusts.
He had already been leading the hospital's investigation.
The inquiry will report to Mr Javid and will be split into two parts. The first will be an interim report which Mr Javid has asked to be published early in the New Year, and the second, a final report looking at the national picture and the wider lessons for the NHS.
Sir Jonathan has also been asked to speak to families of victims for the inquiry.
Mr Javid said: "We have a responsibility to everyone in the UK affected by these shocking crimes. To do right by those we have lost and those left behind in their shock and their grief.
"Nothing that we can say in this place will undo the damage that has been done, but we must act to make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again."
Mr Javid also spoke about the investigation and what is being done now to support family members of victims.
He said: "It has taken months of painstaking work to uncover the extent of this man's offending and the fact that these offences took place in a hospital, a place where all of us should feel safe and free from harm, makes this all the more harrowing.
"We have been working closely with the police and police and crime commissioner and the NHS trust to make sure those families directly affected receive the 24/7 support they need, including dedicated case workers and mental health support and counselling."
He said that MTW had also put in place assessments to support staff who had been affected by the case.
Apologising to the families of the victims, Mr Javid said: "The victims are not just those family members and friends who have been abused in the most horrific of ways, they are also those that have been left behind.
"People who have already experienced such loss and now experience unimaginable pain and anger. They are the victims too.
"As the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, I want to apologise to the friends and families of all the victims for the crimes that were perpetrated in the care of the NHS and for the pain and suffering they are feeling."
He added that if anyone has concerns that a loved one might have been a victim of Fuller's, or if they have any further information about the case, they should contact Operation Sandpiper, the investigation into the mortuary offences, by clicking here.
Speaking about Mr Raab's role he said: "The Justice Secretary will look at whether the penalties that are currently available for such appalling sexual offences are appropriate."
Penetration of a dead body for sexual purposes with any body part or object was made a specific offence in 2003 under section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act. The maximum sentence for it is two years.
The decision to launch a independent inquiry comes after pressure from Kent MPs.
One of Fuller's victims was Azra Kemal, 24, who fell to her death from a bridge on the A21 near Tonbridge.
Her corpse was taken to the morgue at Tunbridge Wells Hospital where Fuller carried out the vile assault.
The families of some of the victims are taking legal action, after it took 12 years for Fuller to be caught.
Following the news, it has been revealed Fuller's children are in 'total shock' after hearing about their father's sickening crimes.
A phone line has been set up in the wake of the case intended for people who feel they may have information about the investigation.
Call 0800 051 5270.