Obituaries

Alan UsherDavid Walter Hugh BarnesHenry Herbert Evans BattenThomas Roy FarrimondJohn FerringtonDonald KellockJohn Stewart KennedyThomas William Aitken McKayBasil Elystan MilesAmiya Pada MukherjeeArpan Mukherjee

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7170.1457 (Published 21 November 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1457

Alan Usher


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Professor of forensic pathology Sheffield, 1978-90 (b Chester le Street, Co Durham, 1930; q Newcastle 1954; FRCPath, DMJ; OBE), d 31 June 1998. He was born in a workhouse, where his father was the master, and this—together with almost losing a leg from osteomyelitis when he was a teenager—gave him a lifelong sympathy with disadvantaged people. After house jobs he started as a lecturer in 1961, but just beforehand spent 18 months as a ship's doctor with the Blue Funnel line, going to the Far East and 1000 miles up the Amazon. In 1964 he became head of the department of forensic pathology and consultant to both the Home Office and the South Yorkshire police force.

Usher's experience was vast. He performed up to 1000 necropsies a year, amounting to over 27 500 during his life time. Nearly 800 of these were murder investigations, and they included the Helen Smith case in Jeddah, one of the Yorkshire Ripper deaths, the Cannock Chase murder, the Confait case, the Perera dismemberment, and many others. He also played a major part in the investigations on the victims of the Flixborough explosion in 1974 and of the calamity at the Hillsborough football ground in 1989. As a result of his involvement in Regina v Leonard Arthur (in which a paediatrician was accused of euthanasia of a baby with Down's syndrome), the law was changed so that technical evidence had to be treated like alibi defence and disclosed to the court beforehand. His manner in court was always cool and unflappable. He was formidable to crossexamine, because he was fair. As a result judges, juries, and the bar all trusted him. Humour was never far from the surface, moreover, and he was a well known raconteur and much sought after as after dinner speaker and lecturer.

A major contribution was raising the facilities for forensic medicine …

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