Allitt may appear before inquiry: Clothier defends decision to take evidence on child murders in private. Ian MacKinnon reports

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The Independent Online
BEVERLY ALLITT, the former nurse convicted of murdering four children and injuring nine others on a paediatric ward, may give evidence to the independent inquiry into the affair being conducted by Sir Cecil Clothier.

Yesterday he said that there would be no reason to rule her out of the investigation if that helped to establish the truth, though extreme caution would have to be exercised because of the state of her health.

However, Sir Cecil, flanked by the two other members of his team - Anne MacDonald, director of quality at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, and Professor David Shaw, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Neurology at Newcastle University - defended the fact that evidence would be taken in private despite the wishes of the victims' parents.

They had demanded a full public inquiry into the events at Grantham and Kesteven General Hospital in Lincolnshire which would have given the team the power to subpoena witnesses.

But Sir Cecil said that when he had been asked by Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, to chair the inquiry he had insisted that it should take place in private.

'My experience is that you get closest to the truth this way,' he said. 'If you really want to know what people think and have thought about extremely difficult and delicate matters you need to see them in circumstances where they don't feel threatened or oppressed.

'Otherwise they count every syllable they utter, wondering whether it carries some undertone, double meaning, innuendo or is defamatory. They can't voice their innermost thoughts; the dark suspicions they would not like to voice from a witness box.'

Sir Cecil said that his final report would be sent to Mrs Bottomley and Trent Regional Health Authority and published in full.

Two consultants who worked on ward 4, Dr Nelson Porter and Dr Charith Nanayakkara, have been refused permission to transfer to the NHS Trust which has taken over paediatric services in Grantham.

The British Medical Association has issued High Court proceedings to force the Queen's Medical Centre NHS Trust in Nottingham to comply with what it says are obligations to accept the doctors' transfers.

(Photograph omitted)