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Obituary: Pathologist gave evidence to Omagh atrocity inquests

By Alf McCreary

Published 04/04/2015

Derek Carson
Derek Carson
The carnage wrought by the Omagh bomb in 1998

Dr Derek Carson was Deputy State Pathologist for Northern Ireland, and gave evidence to many inquests including those held for victims of the Omagh bomb on August 15, 1998, when 29 people and unborn twins died in a no-warning Real IRA explosion in the centre of the town.

Dr Carson, who was 80, worked as a lecturer in pathology at Queen's University for over 25 years, was appointed in the 1960s to a small team of forensic pathologists, which subsequently provided these services throughout the Troubles.

Members of the team often travelled up to 40,000 miles a year, completing coroner-directed autopsies in hospitals throughout Northern Ireland.

At one of the Omagh inquests, Dr Carson told the court that one of the victims, Mrs Philomena Skelton, had died of "multiple severe injuries" which suggested that she had been fairly close to the seat of the bomb, and had been facing it.

Dr Carson also provided forensic pathology consultancy services for firms throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic until late in 2014, and he was well known in legal circles in both jurisdictions.

He served for more than 40 years with the Territorial Army, and he was former Commanding Officer of 204(NI) General Hospital RAMC (V) from 1988-91. He was later Honorary Colonel of 253(NI) Field Ambulence Regiment RAMC (V), and was awarded with a Territorial Decoration.

Dr Carson received a wide range of other awards, including an OBE in 1999 for his services to pathology. He was also appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Co Antrim in 1997. Dr Carson was a long-time member of St Patrick's Parish Church, Jordanstown, where he was a very regular worshipper.

The rector, the Rev Nigel Baylor, said: "Dr Carson was a highly-intelligent gentleman who wore his learning lightly. He was a devout Christian, and a very decent, good man."

Dr Carson's wife Avis predeceased him in 2004, and he is survived by his children Nicholas, Melanie, Colin, Bruce and Kerry. A Service in Celebration of his life is being held today at noon in St Patrick's Jordanstown.

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