Morgue woman inquiry yet to reach conclusion

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The Independent Online

The circumstances surrounding the case of Daphne Banks, the woman discovered to be alive in a hospital mortuary, were "very complicated", and were taking longer to investigate than expected, the local health authority said last night.

The Cambridge and Huntingdon Health Commission intended to issue a full statement by lunchtime yesterday. After lengthy meetings it announced the inquiry was inconclusive and any statement would be delayed until tomorrow.

"This case presents a complex set of circumstances which have required detailed fact-finding," said Diana Jakubowska, the commission's head of communication. "The need to establish more information and take further advice means that we are unable to give any other information at this time".

Mrs Banks, 61, who was pronounced dead on New Year's Eve and found to be alive only minutes before she was placed in a sealed body tray, was recovering in Hinchingbrooke Hospital. The epileptic mother of three was saved from death by an undertaker, Ken Davison, 61, who spotted a twitching varicose vein in her leg while he was saying farewell to the woman he knew as a friend.

A hospital spokeswoman said: "Mrs Banks is progressing well but we don't yet know when she will be discharged." Mrs Banks's husband of 40 years, Claude Banks, 69, and her eldest daughter, Penny Young, 39, were due to visit her yesterday after attending the funeral of a family friend. Speaking from her parents' 200-acre farm in Stonely, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, Mrs Young said: "We just want mum to get home and all this to go away."

It was business as usual for Mr Davison yesterday. At the end of a day's work in St Neots he said: "I'm going to wait till Mrs Banks is better and out of hospital before I visit her. Her husband has said she is going to invite me over to have a cup of tea when it's all over. We'll go from there." He added: "The first night I couldn't sleep, it just kept going through my head. We wanted to tell somebody but couldn't because we had to keep it such a secret for about four days. I couldn't express myself to anyone. Now I've got it off my chest I feel better."

The doctor responsible for pronouncing Mrs Banks dead has not been identified. The Medical Defence Union, which advises its members on medico- legal issues, was handling enquiries on behalf of Dr David Roberts, the senior GP in Stonely, Cambridgeshire, where Mrs Banks lives.