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Northallerton doctor acted dishonestly, watchdog concludes
5:26pm Sunday 16th December 2012 in News
A former British Army doctor failed to protect detainees and acted dishonestly after the death of Iraqi prisoner Baha Mousa, medical watchdogs ruled today.
Dr Derek Keilloh, appearing before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), denied any cover-up and claimed he only spotted dried blood around the nose of hotel receptionist Mr Mousa after he was arrested and beaten by British soldiers in Basra in 2003.
Hooded with a sandbag for nearly 24 hours, Mr Mousa suffered 93 separate injuries including fractured ribs and a broken nose during the final 36 hours of his life in the custody of the 1st Battalion, Queen's Lancashire Regiment (1 QLR).
Dr Keilloh - the senior medic on duty who treated Mr Mousa, 26, on the night he died repeatedly denied any knowledge of such injuries.
Today the GP, who now works at Mayford House Surgery in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, was found guilty of a series of failures after the death of Mr Mousa and his subsequent conduct.
The MPTS found he was aware of the injuries to the victim - but failed to conduct an adequate examination of the body.
And knowing of the dead man's condition he then failed to assess other detainees or protect them from further mistreatment and tell senior officers what was going on.
And the MPTS said he engaged in ''misleading and dishonest'' conduct when, at courts martials and a subsequent public inquiry, he maintained under oath he saw no injuries to Mr Mousa's body.
The tribunal will now retire to decide whether his behaviour amounts to misconduct, and if so, what the penalty should be.
The MPTS has the power to suspend or strike off doctors they find guilty of misconduct.
Dr Keilloh sat ramrod straight, blinking slowly, but made no reaction as Dr Brian Alderman, chairman of the MPTS panel hearing the case, delivered its verdict.
The case has been ongoing for 42 days in all, with much of the hearing held in private and the panel today coming to a decision on the facts of the case running to 57 pages.
In all there were 51 individual allegations, 30 already admitted, 17 found proved and four not proved.
Lawyers for the General Medical Council, which prosecutes the case and Dr Keilloh, asked for time to digest the findings and the panel will sit again tomorrow morning.
Lawyers for Dr Keilloh said he would make no comment while the hearing was still ongoing.
The MPTS panel ruled that while the injuries to Baha Mousa and others was the responsibility of British soldiers, there were ''clearly failings by others with responsibility towards the detainees to have safeguarded their welfare''.
A public inquiry concluded Mr Mousa's death was caused by a combination of his weakened physical state - due to factors including the heat, exhaustion, his previous injuries and the hooding and stress positions he was subjected to by British troops - and a final struggle with his guards at the detention centre at Army HQ in Basra.
Dr Keilloh was, at the time, a 28-year-old captain new to his post of regimental medical officer of the QLR, having been in the job only eight weeks.
After a ''very short'' handover, he took over the medical team of the QLR at their HQ in the former headquarters of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party in war-torn Basra City.
A number of QLR soldiers had been killed in the city by insurgents and Operation Salerno was launched by the QLR against Saddam loyalists in the city.
On September 14, 2003 Mr Mousa and other detainees were brought in for questioning after being arrested at the Ibn Al Haitham hotel in Basra in the early hours of the morning.
After finding AK47s, sub-machine guns, pistols, fake ID cards and military clothing, the suspects were taken into custody at the British Army base.
At around 9.30pm the next day, Dr Keilloh was summoned from his medical post to the detention area because Mr Mousa had ''fallen and collapsed''.
When Dr Keilloh got there he found Mr Mousa lying on his back with no shirt on.
With soldiers standing around the body, one medic who arrived on the scene blurted out: ''Look at the state of him,'' when they saw the patient ''covered in bruises''.
Dr Keilloh and his team tried for half an hour to resuscitate Mr Mousa before he was declared dead at 10.05pm.
Ahmed Al Matairi, who was detained with Mr Mousa, told the tribunal Dr Keilloh was a ''criminal'' who ignored the cries of men being tortured.
Mr Matairi described hearing Baha Mousa's final words as he was beaten and tortured.
He said Mr Mousa told his tormentors: ''I am innocent. I am not a Baathist. My wife died six months ago. Blood! Blood! I am going to die. My children are going to become orphans.''
In 2006 Corporal Donald Payne of 1 QLR became the first member of the British armed forces convicted of a war crime after pleading guilty at a court martial to inhumanely treating civilians following the incident.
He was cleared of manslaughter and perverting the course of justice.
Six other soldiers were cleared of all charges at the end of the six-month, £20 million courts martial.
Cpl Payne was dismissed from the Army and sentenced to one year in a civilian jail.
A £13 million public inquiry into the incident led by Sir William Gage strongly criticised the ''corporate failure'' by the Ministry of Defence and condemned the ''lack of moral courage to report abuse'' within Preston-based QLR.
The final report named 19 soldiers who assaulted Mr Mousa and other detainees, and found that many others, including several officers, must have known what was happening and bore a ''heavy responsibility'' for what happened.
Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the ''truly shocking and appalling'' abuse suffered by Mr Mousa and General Sir Mike Jackson, a former head of the Army, said the incident remained a ''stain on the character of the British Army''.
In July, 2010, the Ministry of Defence agreed to pay £2.83 million in compensation to the families of Mr Mousa and nine other Iraqi men abused by British troops.