I couldn't have stopped mother leaving hospital before she strangled toddler - doctor

Strangled toddler Christy Ruddell

Strangled toddler Christy Ruddell

First published in News
Last updated
Durham Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Durham)

A DOCTOR has insisted he could not have stopped a psychotic mother leaving hospital just hours before she killed her two-year-old son.

Dr Clement Agbatar claimed he did not know Melanie Ruddell was suffering from acute psychosis when he examined her at the University Hospital of Hartlepool shortly before she strangled toddler Christy at her brother’s home in West Rainton, near Durham, in August 2010.

Mrs Ruddell discharged herself, killed her son and drove to Peterlee, where she carried his lifeless body into the police station.

She admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in February 2011 and was detained under the Mental Health Act.

An inquest in 2012 ruled she had unlawfully killed Christy, but Sunderland Coroner Derek Winter raised questions over how she was allowed to discharge herself from hospital.

Dr Agbatar is now facing allegations of misconduct at a fitness to practise hearing at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester.

The General Medical Council (GMC) says he should have ensured Mrs Ruddell was examined by a crisis team and sectioned.

But giving evidence to today’s (Wednesday, March hearing by telephone, Dr Agabatar denied any wrongdoing.

He said: “I had made up my mind, gauging the note and the answers she gave to my questioning, that she was absolutely medically correct at the time I was examining her and therefore, based on that, I could not possibly force her to stay.

“She may have been psychotic after she left the hospital, but at that moment I was talking to her she was not and I could not possibly force her to stay against her will.

“It would have constituted an assault.”

The GMC says Dr Agbatar did make a diagnosis of psychosis and had referred Mrs Ruddell to the crisis team.

The medic is also facing allegations relating to another woman, known only as Patient A, who he treated at the Hartlepool hospital in September 2010 after she was assaulted by her ex-partner.

It is claimed he failed to recognise the abnormality of her low blood sugar and heart rate, seek a medical opinion or refer her to a physician, charges he denies.

The panel could strike Dr Agbatar off the medical register. The hearing continues.

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