Mystery over metal strips found in body

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The Independent Online
A TEENAGE holidaymaker who died in Corfu had what were probably metal strips inside her body at least two years ago, it was disclosed yesterday.

Nineteen-year-old Karen Murray collapsed on the Greek island last week complaining of stomach pains. Doctors there claimed equipment and swabs from a previous operation were found in her body.

Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, where Ms Murray had major bowel surgery eight years ago, said yesterday that her medical records showed that all the swabs used in the operation were removed, counted and checked.

But the mystery over the death of Ms Murray, from Birkdale, Merseyside, deepened when the hospital disclosed that X-rays taken at another hospital six years later had shown the presence of the strips.

"The X-rays taken in 1996 ... show what appear to be five - probably metal - strips which do not correlate to any surgical equipment or item used in the 1990 surgery," said solicitors for Alder Hey in a statement.

Doctors in Corfu said that a post-mortem examination had found surgical gauze and a number of plastic medical clips in her abdomen. The medical evidence was not returned with her body to Britain earlier this week, the Foreign Office confirmed yesterday. The swabs and other items remained in Corfu despite requests that they should be sent to Britain.

A second post-mortem examination carried out by Dr Edmund Tapp, a Home Office pathologist, failed to establish the cause of death.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are assisting with the examining officer's request for the necessary material to be sent to the UK."

Alder Hey Hospital, which operated on Ms Murray when she was 12-years- old, said it had reviewed her medical records after concerns from lawyers acting for her family.

"Those records establish that on 6 December 1990, Karen underwent major bowel surgery. During that procedure a number of swabs were used.

"The medical records show that all the swabs were removed and counted and checked before the surgery was finished. The operation was a complete success," said the hospital's solicitors.

They said that the X-rays taken later at Southport and Formby District and General Hospital had shown no evidence of any swab in Ms Murray's abdomen. All surgical swabs had threads that were designed to show up on X-ray film, the hospital said.

The Southport coroner yesterday opened and adjourned an inquest into Ms Murray's death.