Allegation was 'sick joke'

By Annie DavidsonTHE husband of a woman cleared of murdering her two baby sons said he thought it was “a sick joke” when a senior paediatrician accused him of the killings.

By Annie Davidson

THE husband of a woman cleared of murdering her two baby sons said he thought it was “a sick joke” when a senior paediatrician accused him of the killings.

Steve Clark, 42, made the condemnation yesterday while giving evidence in the case against Professor David Southall at a hearing of the General Medical Council.

Prof Southall contacted police after he saw Mr Clark, from Chelmsford, being interviewed on television while his wife, Sally, served life in prison for the alleged murders of her baby sons, Christopher and Harry.

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Mr Clark said he had been beginning to get his life back on track after his wife's arrest and conviction when Prof Southall had made the allegations.

Describing what he had been through Mr Clark, whose third son was taken into care at one point, said: “I was quite stunned.

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“For the last two-and-a-half years I felt my family had been attacked by the full force of the state. I'd lost my son, who'd been taken away from me, and had lost my wife.

“My life was in chaos at that point. Everything I had worked for had been taken away from me.”

Mr Clark said that at the time of Prof Southall's allegations he had got his son back from foster carers and had been trying to bring him up as a single father.

When he learned of Prof Southall's accusations, Mr Clark said he had found it “quite astounding” that a senior paediatrician could come to these conclusions “largely on watching a TV programme”.

He added Prof Southall had made the claims without having talked to health professionals.

“Initially I thought 'Is this some sort of sick joke?' Then I realised it was not, it was deadly serious,” he said.

Mr Clark said he could have been arrested over the murders, adding: “My son could be taken into care, even taken out of the family, and I would never see him again.'”

Mr Clark added he felt that he had been “branded a double murderer by a very senior and well-respected consultant paediatrician”.

He continued: “It seemed unbelievable in the circumstances because as far as I was aware he had not seen any of the medical evidence in the case.”

When asked by Richard Tyson, for the General Medical Council, if he had killed his sons Christopher and Harry, Mr Clark said: “No, I did not.”

Mr Clark added he had always believed his wife, Sally, was innocent of the murders.

She was convicted in 1999 of murdering her children, but the conviction was quashed when a second appeal succeeded in January 2003.

Prof Southall, 55, is one of Britain's leading experts on Munchausen's Syndrome By Proxy, a condition that apparently drives parents to harm their children in order to win attention.

He currently works as a consultant paediatrician at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in Stoke.

Prof Southall is facing a charge of serious professional misconduct, which he has denied.

He has admitted accusing Mr Clark of killing his sons and of relying on the content of a television programme as the principle factual source for his concerns.

Broadcast on April 27, 2000, the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary featured an interview with Mr Clark, in which he described a nosebleed suffered by their first baby, Christopher, in a hotel nine days before he died in December, 1996.

Prof Southall saw the programme and told police it was his view that Mr Clark, rather than his wife, had killed Christopher and Harry.

He told detectives Christopher's nosebleed was consistent with suffocation and added he was worried for the safety of the couple's third child, who lived with his father at the time.

Prof Southall made the claims at a time when he was suspended from his job at the North Staffordshire Hospital NHS Trust on unrelated child protection matters. He was later cleared and the suspension was lifted.

He has told the General Medical Council that he was not connected with the Clarks' case and admitted knowing he should not have undertaken new child protection work while suspended without the prior permission of the acting medical director of the trust.

N A book about Mr and Mrs Clark's ordeal is being published tomorrow.

Stolen Innocence - A Mother's Fight For Justice has been written by John Batt, a solicitor and lifelong friend of Mrs Clark.

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