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Bereaved family to sue suspect

The family of a young doctor strangled more than two years ago are taking the rare legal step of suing her suspected murderer for damages.

Lawyers for the family of Joan Francisco hope that the claim, for the assault and battery that led to her death, will result in a finding by a civil court that Tony Diedrick, the suspect, committed the killing.

The action is being brought by Dr Francisco's sisters, Margaret and Celia, following a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service that there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution.

Dr Francisco, a 27-year-old gynaecologist and obstetrician, was found strangled in her flat in north London, on Boxing Day 1994.

A police inquiry revealed that she had been the victim of a stalker, but the inquiry was hampered by the lack of a witness and forensic evidence.

Karen Thatcher, the family's solicitor, said: "We hope that during the course of these proceedings more evidence may emerge which will result in the CPS reviewing the case."

In contrast to a criminal prosecution where an accused can remain silent, Mr Diedrick, 37, from Maida Vale, north-west London, has little option but to mount a defence and to give evidence. The damages claim could be worth up to pounds 50,000.