High-flyer whose attraction was fatal

YOUNG, black, female gynaecologists are rare in the NHS and Joan Francisco was all of these. She was also stunningly attractive and intelligent. But, as her sister Margrette said, she had a certain naivety and was a poor judge of character and poor

chooser of men.

Dr Francisco's relationship with Tony Diedrick ended in December 1988 but he refused to accept it was over and on Boxing Day three years ago Dr Francisco was found dead in her west London flat. She had been due to fly to Los Angeles to spend the endof Christmas with her sisters, Margrette and Celia. Her funeral was attended by some of Britain's leading doctors and she was buried wearing her stethoscope.

Diedrick was arrested in March 1995 but freed without charge. The Francisco family then brought a civil action and yesterday Diedrick was named in the High Court as the murder of Dr Francisco. The family is claiming up to pounds 50,000 compensation.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Alliot said Dr Francisco was a "remarkably attractive woman" who climbed high from a humble background. She drove a BMW, went to clubs and friends included the former Wimbledon footballer John Fashanu and the boxer Lennox

Lewis.

But the picture of the jet-setting party animal was tempered by a more intimate portrait of the home-loving baby of the family who played her mother's favourite pieces on the piano and delighted in giving surprise presents. The Franciscos lived in a

modest house in Acton, west London, and the three children were encouraged to be curious from an early age.

Their mother, Venus, from St Lucia, was a nurse, and their father, Alfred, from Belize, taught maths, physics and technical drawing in a secondary school until his retirement.

In an interview with the Independent last year Margrette recalled the family moving to Saudi Arabia for a couple of years when the sisters were young. "Father taught us at home, as though he was teaching secondary- school students. He taught Joan touse a slide rule when she was five. He encouraged us to have seeking minds and always be curious."

All three sisters went to a school that was mainly white but race was never an issue for them.

"What we projected was what we expected and what we received," said Margrette, who, with Celia, is a lawyer in Los Angeles. All three did well at school but Joan was the star.

"She was the most focused of all of us. When she had to study she wanted everybody else out of the way. She would listen to study tapes in her sleep in the hope that she would learn subliminally.

"She gave up chocolates for Lent and then later decided it wasn't wise for a child to eat them. So, at the age of nine, she gave up for good. At one stage, she decided that white flour wasn't good for her, so she baked her own bread every morning."

But Dr Francisco also loved to dance and play the piano. At school she did the high jump and played netball.

However, her potential was not always appreciated at school and when she wanted to apply to medical college she was told she would not succeed, despite gaining straight As at A- level.

With a determination typical of the entire Francisco family she applied for and was accepted by all five medical schools that she chose. She took up a place in 1991 at the Royal Free Medical Hospital, where she specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Margrette said recently: "She loved her work and cared passionately about her patients. She said bringing life into the world and saving lives was the most valuable contribution she could make."

Venus, said simply: "I shed tears every day for the loss of my precious daughter who brought life to so many during her short life as a gynaecologist and obstetrician. What a waste of life and talent."

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