Paedophile doctor guilty of raping young girls at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Michael Salmon arrives at court (image courtesy of BBC News)
Michael Salmon arrives at court (image courtesy of BBC News)

Former children’s doctor Michael Salmon has been found guilty of raping and sexually abusing young female patients at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

The shamed former consultant paediatrician, now 80, was the first person to be charged under Operation Yewtree.

Salmon was convicted of two counts of rape and nine counts of indecent assault against six girls, aged 12 to 18 years at the time, between 1980 and 1988.

He had previously been jailed 25 years ago after pleading guilty in November 1990 to similar indecent assaults on young female patients as young as 12 years old.

The victims had all been referred to Salmon, who was a consultant paediatrician at various hospitals in the Aylesbury area.

The court heard how many of them had felt ‘uncomfortable’ when being examined by Salmon, but believed that he was trustworthy because he was a doctor.

He branded his victims ‘gold diggers’ and thought he was ‘bomb proof’.

Salmon, who specialised in children’s growth disorders and neurological problems, such as migraines, worked at hospitals around Buckinghamshire, including Stoke Mandeville, where serial pervert Jimmy Savile also targeted patients for sex attacks during his time as a fundraiser there.

The abuse concerned the time Salmon was a leading paediatrician at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, with much of it taking place within the hospital itself.

The jury of seven men and five women had heard how Salmon would examine young girls in a consulting room, where their parents were either behind a screen or asked to leave the room.

He would touch teenage girls’ breasts under the pretence of listening to a heartbeat, with one woman speaking of being shown how to check herself for breast cancer, and another saying Salmon “squeezed” her nipples.

Other patients said he claimed to be checking them medically when he put his fingers inside them in unnecessary vaginal examinations, when they went to him for treatment for conditions like migraines.

One former teenage patient, then aged 16 years, said Salmon told her “one favour deserves another,” as he raped her in her bedroom.

When she thought she had fallen pregnant after losing her virginity with a neighbour in 1984, the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, turned to the paediatrician she had seen every three months since she went to him for digestive problems, aged nine years.

She told the court she had been taken upstairs to his bedroom, and told to lie down on a sheet on top of his duvet, where Salmon gave her a back street abortion, using a long tube to “suck the foetus out.”

“I don’t remember much - I just closed my eyes until it was over,” she told the court.

The victim recalled feeling “dizzy” and “light-headed” as she was asked to lie back on the bed for a check-up, when Salmon told her: “One favour deserves another.”

“I couldn’t take in what he meant and then he dropped his trousers and I see he has got nothing on apart from his shirt and he’s coming towards me, he’s on me,” she said, her voice breaking as she told how she had screaming, “No.”

Afterwards, the doctor - who was struck off the medical register in 1991 for indecent assaults on three teenage patients - dropped the girl at a bus where she bled onto her white summer dress on the way home.

Salmon had denied the girl had ever been to his house, despite the largely accurate description and floorplan the victim was able to give of the house in Buckland, and insisted he didn’t have the gynaecological experience to carry out the procedure.

Jurors unanimously found Salmon not guilty of having carried out two abortions on the vulnerable teenager, but found him guilty of raping her on two occasions.

The court heard how Salmon told another young patient that she had a ‘special button’ between her legs that she could touch to alleviate the symptoms of a migraine, although this was not proved.

Another witness gave evidence about being made to do neurological, balancing exercises with her bra off, before Salmon gave her in an internal examination when she was only suffering from migraines.

Salmon showed no emotion as he listened to the verdicts being read out by the jury foreman.

He had insisted he only ever carried out proper medical examinations and that the rape and abortion charges were completely fabricated.

Salmon said he would carry out a detailed physical examination on child patients during their first appointment, following techniques taught to medical students from the industry standard textbook Hutchinson’s Clinical Methods, still used today.

He had accused the women of lying about absue in order to seek damages, branding them ‘gold diggers’ in a police interview.

Asked why unrelated victims would have made similar allegations against him, Salmon brashly responded: “I think they are gold diggers.

“I can’t think of any other reason why they would have done this... I’m extremely offended to hear these things. I thought that what I did was something rather better than that.

“Doctors try and cure patients of various diseases, they don’t go around attacking them and I’ve never attacked a patient.”

At another point in the interview, Salmon denied getting a 15-year-old to sit on his lap, after making her do exercises with her bra off, saying: “As we know, teenagers are unreliable witnesses, their sexual fantasies often take over, become reality and I think you better explore that. This is nothing to do with... I’ve never done that.”

The court had heard that Salmon had previously been convicted for sexual crimes dating to the same period as the current charges.

The shamed doctor left his profession and position at Stoke Mandeville in 1987 when detectives searching his office for evidence of fraudulent activity discovered love letters from young female patients and launched a further probe into his behaviour.

Salmon pleaded guilty in November 1990 to indecent assaults on three girls, one of whom was aged just 12 years when he touched her ‘intimately’ in his car, and was jailed for three years, serving around 18 months.

Prosecuting the latest charges, Miranda Moore QC asked the jury whether his previous conviction showed a ‘pattern’ of abusive behaviour and why so many women - eight in this case and six from the 1990 case - with their “own lives” would make up false allegations.

Giving legal directions earlier this week, Judge Johannah Cutts had told jurors at Reading Crown Court that if they found the witnesses to be reliable and ‘completely independent’, they could consider similarities between the different women’s complaints to give strength to an individual claim.

While Salmon had no direct ties to Savile, the former DJ and presenter’s name came up repeatedly during the case as Salmon’s victims were inspired to come forward in the wake of the sex abuse scandal.

One victim even questioned whether a ‘paedophile ring’ had been operating at Stoke Mandeville, although there is no suggestion Salmon or Savile knew each other, even if they were abusing children over the same period of time.

Salmon was arrested in November 2013, when he described allegations against him as ‘absolute nonsense’.

His barrister Sarah Jones previously said he had been ‘hauled over coals’, when he was rebuilding his life.

She said: “He’s become a scapegoat for a time when too many people died before the winds of change blew.”

But Ms Moore said: “This isn’t a quick fumble in a car park, this is a concerted and repeated attacks on young women.

“He appears to have a total lack of understanding that what he did was wrong.

“In his view, it’s incredibly silly. His own behaviour indicates a total lack of moral compass.”

She added: “This is a case about trust. That trust is left in the hands of medical professionals every day.

“These girls weren’t just ill with a snuffle or a cut knee, these girls were really ill. They were vulnerable, young, entrusted and trusting.

“That’s what gave him opportunity. That trust was breached by Mr Salmon.”

Judge Johanna Cutts QC remanded elderly Salmon in custody until sentencing next week. His wife Susie, who has stood by him throughout proceedings, sobbed as he was taken down to the cells.

Investigator Emma Barlow, who was designated to the case, thanked all the witnesses for ‘having the courage to come forward, face their abuser and tell the court what happened to them many years ago when they were child patients’.

She said: “I would like to also thank the strength of the women who were the witnesses from an earlier conviction of Salmon in 1990.

“They gave evidence to the court this time for matters they thought had been put to rest 25 years ago.”

Det Sgt Malcolm Wheeler from the child abuse investigation unit said: “Salmon was a prolific sexual offender who abused his position of power in order for his own sexual gratification.

“As a consultant paediatrician, he preyed on young girls who had been referred to him for a variety of health issues.

“They trusted him, they believed him, because he was a doctor and they thought he was trustworthy.

“On a number of occasions, he carried out unnecessary internal examinations on young girls.

“Although they felt uncomfortable at this, they didn’t feel able to tell anyone because they believed the examinations must have been necessary.

“Some of the offences were committed while the child’s parent was just outside the room.

“They have had to live with his actions their entire lives and it is only because of their bravery that Salmon now faces a long time behind bars.

“He never admitted any of these offences and when asked about these offences, denied carrying out any internal examinations and claimed the victims were lying. “He was categorically shown to be lying over the last few weeks at Reading Crown Court.

“If you have been the victim of sexual abuse or know someone who has, then please get in touch with us.

“This conviction shows that even if the offences were committed decades ago, we will listen to you and we will do everything to make sure offenders are brought to justice.”

Adrian Foster, chief crown prosecutor for CPS Thames and Chiltern said: “Michael Salmon has been convicted today of offences which are particularly shocking due to the abuse of his position as a doctor taking advantage of the female patients in his care.

“His crimes were extremely traumatic for his victims who should have expected his support rather than this gross betrayal of their trust.

“Michael Salmon used his status to molest these vulnerable young girls and women who felt unable to complain as he was a doctor, and many of whom only bravely came forward after seeing other cases in the media.

“I hope they now feel that justice has been done.”

Salmon, of Park Lane, Britford, Salisbury, was cleared of one count of rape, two counts of indecent assault and two counts of using an instrument to procure an abortion.