Belfast Telegraph

Mum calls on police to probe claims of withheld evidence

By Lisa Smyth

A woman whose daughter's death is being examined as part of the Hyponatraemia Inquiry has called for the PSNI to investigate a whistleblower's claims that evidence was withheld, it can be revealed.

The shock development was revealed only earlier this month to the families of the five children whose deaths are being examined by the public inquiry.

The families were informed after an investigation by the Health & Social Care Board (HSCB) concluded there was no evidence to support the claims by a health service employee.

However Marie Ferguson, the mother of Raychel Ferguson - who was nine when she died in June 2001 after surgery at Altnagelvin Hospital - has referred the matter to the police.

Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said officers had received a letter from the solicitor representing the Ferguson family.

He added police would respond to it accordingly, but could not comment further.

Mrs Ferguson has also hit out at the three-month delay in informing families of the allegations and subsequent HSCB investigation. "It is like giving me one final insult," she said.

It comes as the families of Raychel, Adam Strain, Claire Roberts, Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell brace themselves for the long-awaited inquiry report, which is due to be released on Wednesday, 14 years after the investigation was announced.

Mrs Ferguson said she had been left devastated at the suggestion vital evidence may have been kept from the probe.

She added that she had no confidence in the findings of the HSCB investigation.

"That's why I'm calling for the police to investigate, and until that happens, I will not accept there is no truth to the allegations," she said.

"That's why we are here in the first place, because if the truth had been told about our children's deaths from the very start, we wouldn't have needed an inquiry."

She said she was baffled as to why the families were kept in the dark about such a crucial development.

"How much more distress could it have caused after everything we have been through already?" she asked.

The HSCB said: "At no time did the board ask for the allegations and investigation to be withheld from interested parties."

"A full and thorough investigation was carried out by the panel, which found no evidence to support the claims of any 'deliberate attempt to remove evidence' or any 'deliberate attempt to destroy evidence or equipment contrary to the instructions regarding the need to preserve evidence for further consideration by the inquiry'."

Belfast Telegraph

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