The pathologist who stripped organs from hundreds of dead children at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool is to be investigated by the police over possible criminal misconduct, theft and forgery.

The Crown Prosecution Service has advised Merseyside Police to launch a inquiry into Professor Dick van Velzen, who was the central figure in the Alder Hey scandal.

The Dutch-born professor has already been suspended from the medical register in Britain and was heavily criticised for more than 20 failings when an official inquiry reported early this year. The inquiry found that he had lied to parents and colleagues, deceived the hospital authorities, falsified post-mortem reports and removed countless organs from children's bodies without consent.

In a statement yesterday, the Crown Prosecution Service said that Professor van Velzen should not be investigated for the removal, retention and disposal of organs, even though that decision would be a "great disappointment" to the families involved.

Leading lawyers said the organ removal would not constitute a criminal offence because it had been common practice by pathologists. An obscure law of preventing a decent burial was also not applicable because it applied to the way in which a body was disposed of, not whether it was fully intact at the time.

Instead the CPS said that the inquiry, chaired by Michael Redfern QC, had raised questions about other "serious wrongdoings", which should be the subject of a criminal investigation.

Allegations in the Redfern report that the professor lied about proper tests, fabricated post-mortem reports and misidentified suitable cases for cot death research should be investigated under the common law offence of misconduct in public office.

It also advised that Professor van Velzen, who worked at the hospital between 1988 and 1995, could be extradited from his home in the Netherlands to face charges of theft, forgery, obtaining property by deception and obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception.

Those charges would relate to findings that Professor van Velzen lied about his experience when applying for the post of chair of foetal and infant pathology, forged other doctors' signatures when applying for research grants and took medical records from Alder Hey.

Mike Tonge, Deputy Chief Constable of Merseyside, said that his force would be "closely examining" the allegations relating to Professor van Velzen and would submit the findings to the Crown Prosecution Service in due course.

Parents affected by the scandal had mixed reactions to the announcement. Pauline O'Hare, whose 15-year-old daughter Kathryn was stripped of her organs in 1993, said: "I welcome the news that Van Velzen could be investigated but it is not my primary concern.

"The fact that the CPS are saying that taking organs without consent is not a crime proves that there must be a change in the law.

"I am more concerned with getting the Government to make sure this never happens again than throwing the book at Van Velzen."

Janet Valentine, who lost her daughter Kayleigh in 1990, said she hoped to see Van Velzen jailed. "I am glad they are investigating him and this may sound harsh and bitter but I would like to see him behind bars. He stole my little girl's organs and he let us pay our respects to an empty shell at her first funeral."

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