Do Sir Roy's Adopted Children Hold the Key to One of History's Worst Cases of Legal Injustice; Exclusive: Family Secret That Drove the Expert Who Branded Innocent Mothers as Murderers

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 25, 2004 | Go to article overview

Do Sir Roy's Adopted Children Hold the Key to One of History's Worst Cases of Legal Injustice; Exclusive: Family Secret That Drove the Expert Who Branded Innocent Mothers as Murderers


Byline: LAURA COLLINS

AS THE country's leading expert on sudden infant death syndrome, Sir Roy Meadow's theories have been responsible for separating thousandsof children from their parents and led to scores of innocent women being wrongly imprisoned for murder.

His dictum that if one infant dies it is cot-death, if two die it is suspicious and if three die it is murder, has led to the persecution of parents whose children died mysteriously and branded many as killers.

Now The Mail on Sunday can reveal the closely guarded family secret that may hold the key to 70-year-old Professor Meadow's zealous pursuit through the courts of women he believed had harmed their own children.

For it seems that the doctor whose brutal theories cast doubt on the natural bond between parents and their children, never knew it himself. Despite two marriages, he has been unable to father any children himself. His son, Julian, and daughter, Anna, were both adopted.

According to friends his relationship with his own parents was difficult and even his former wife Gillian admits she believes he 'has a serious problem with women'.

She describes the professor as aloof and obsessive, a distant figure who concentrated on carving out a career for himself instead of spending time with his family.

Gillian, the daughter of Sir Ian Maclennan, a former British Ambassador to Dublin and High Commissioner of Ghana, says the marriage ended in bitter disappointment after 13 years. The divorce was finalised in 1978 - just one year after her former husband

published his first medical paper identifying a condition he named Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

It was on the identification of this desperate psychological condition, in which a mother is driven to harm, and sometimes even kill, her own child to draw attention to herself, that Meadow would build, and may yet lose, his career.

TODAY Sir Roy Meadow's once illustrious reputation lies in tatters. Vilified by his peers, the hunter has turned into the hunted.

Ever since his credibility was thrown into doubt - first with solicitor Sally Clark's appeal a year ago and more recently with the highprofile cases of Trupti Patel and Angela Cannings - he has been under intense scrutiny. He is currently being investigated by the General Medical Council.

Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, Gillian, 65, says: 'It's hard for me to talk about Roy. He changed in the time I knew him and I'm not sure I know the man he is now at all. He was always very dedicated to medicine, to his profession, perhaps at the expense of personal relationships. It's heartbreakingto watch him being tried by public opinion but I can understand why these women and these families who have gone through such awful anguish need him to be at least asked to justify himself.

His dedication could slip into obsession and he needs to be tried and judged by his peers.' She added: 'It's tragic. My heart goes out to those mothers - to lose your children and then be accused of killing them. It goes out to Roy, too, that such a distinguished career should end up wrecked.

'I wish somebody could have told him, "Roy you're going over the top. You're seeing it [Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy] everywhere and it can't be." But by then, I was no longer married to him and no longer in a position to talk to him that way.

' Roy was not always an easy man to talk to and to be intimate with and I haven't spoken to him really since our divorce. …

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