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Surgeon Sellu 'sorry' over death of Armagh man James Hughes

Doctor who spent 15 months in jail speaks out after negligence conviction overturned

By Annamay McNally

Published 21/11/2016

Surgeon David Sellu
Surgeon David Sellu
James Hughes

A surgeon whose conviction for gross negligence after the death of a Co Armagh construction boss was overturned on appeal has said he still feels "very sorry" for the victim's family.

James Hughes (66) was under the care of consultant David Sellu when he died at the Clementine Churchill Hospital in Harrow in 2010.

Mr Hughes became ill after a routine knee replacement carried out by another surgeon.

Mr Sellu later carried out surgery to repair a perforated bowel, but there had been delays in carrying out that operation and Mr Hughes died two days later.

The conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal on November 15, 2016, after the top medic had served 15 months behind bars.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, David Sellu described his conviction as the "worst day" of his life.

Speaking about the Appeal Court verdict, Mr Sellu said he feels "no jubilation, only a little relief".

"I still can't sleep properly. I'm on beta-blockers to stop my heart racing. And I feel like a pariah.

"I've had to cope with headlines that called me 'Doctor Death' and 'Killer Surgeon'.

"That doesn't go away. The Crown Prosecution Service know they made a hash of this case. My hope now is that they will think twice before trying to criminalise others working in healthcare."

David Sellu first saw James Hughes on February 11, 2010, after the patient had developed worsening pain in his abdomen following a knee operation.

Mr Sellu agreed to see Mr Hughes as a "favour" to the surgeon who carried out the knee operation.

A junior doctor thought Mr Hughes had cramp, when, in fact he had a perforated bowel.

Mr Sellu was not able to operate until the early hours of February 14, by which time Mr Hughes was critical, and, sadly, never regained consciousness.

"I'm still very sorry for his family," Mr Sellu told the Sunday newspaper. "They lost a husband and a father. I've analysed what happened a thousand times, and with the benefit of hindsight, there are things I might do differently.

"But there were reasons for the delay in operating that had absolutely nothing to do with me - for example, there was no rota for anaesthetists."

It was not until after Mr Sellu was convicted that the hospital sent an email to its doctors suggesting a rota be formed.

An inquest into Mr Hughes' death opened in October 2010, but was quickly halted by the coroner, who ordered police to begin a criminal investigation of Mr Sellu.

Following the guilty verdict at David Sellu's original trial in 2013, a victim impact statement delivered by a prosecutor on behalf of Mr Hughes' wife Ann, said her husband, who was much loved by his family and friends, "would have been better cared for if he had collapsed in a back alley".

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