GILLIAN Paterson, the former wife of Roy Meadow, buried her head in
her hands, then looked up, her face screwed in anguish.
"It's tragic," she said. "My heart goes out to those
mothers - to lose your children and then be accused of killing them.
But it goes out to Roy, too, that such a distinguished career should
end up wrecked.
In retrospect, though, the signs were there - in whom Roy was - that
he would go too far. He found it everywhere. He was over the top. He
saw mothers with Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy wherever he looked.
"I wish that somebody could have said to him: 'Roy, they're not
They do exist, but they're rare'. I wish somebody could have stopped
She went even further. Roy is a misogynist, she said baldly. "I
don't think he likes women. He's not gay. I don't think he's gay.
But, although I can't go into details, I'm sure he has a serious
problem with women."
Breaking their silence for the first time, members of Sir Roy Meadow's
family and inner circle spoke exclusively this week to the Evening
Standard, shedding a revealing light on the enigma at the centre of
potentially the biggest serial miscarriage of justice in the history
of the British legal system. This week the Appeal Court ruled that
mothers could never again be convicted in cot-death cases on expert
medical opinion alone, and 258 cases involving mothers who were
wrongly jailed are to be reinvestigated following the discrediting of
Meadow's infamous dictum that "one cot death is a tragedy, two
suspicious and three is murder".
Who exactly is Sir Roy Meadow? What explains the overzealous way in
which he went about accusing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of mothers
of murdering their children in family and criminal courts?
On Monday, when the Law Lords delivered their * a ndmark j udgme n t o
n th e Angela Cannings appeal, the high court was packed with all the
players central to the drama - save one. Roy Meadow, 70, was hundreds
of miles away, holed up in his Yorkshire country mansion in Weeton, a
village halfway between Harrogate and Leeds, where he lives with his
second wife, Marianne.
Ever since Meadow's evidence was discredited - first in the Sally
Clarke appeal a year ago, and more recently in the high-profile Trupti
Patel and Angela Cannings trials - interest in the paediatrician has
been intense. One rumour claimed he was an abandoned child and that he
consequently nurtured a hatred of mothers.
The source of this information - or rather misinformation - was,
ironically, an unpublished quote from Meadow himself which had come
into the possession of families pursuing their appeals. It involved a
transcript - a copy of which is in the possession of the Standard - of
a 1992 court case heard in the Family division of the High Court, in
which Meadow tells the judge: "I was, as a junior [doctor],
brought up by Anna Freud [the daughter of Sigmund Freud], who was a
great figure in child psychology, and I used to sit at her feet at
Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead. She used to teach us that a child
needs mothering and not a mother [our italics]."
The Anna Freud Centre, however, has denied any record of him in their
famous "war babies nursery". It reported no record of him
completing a formal training there.
What's more, their chief executive, Professor Peter Fonagy, claimed
the words he attributed to Anna Freud were a "total
misrepresentation of her philosophy".
Meadow, contacted by the Standard, refused to answer questions. His
children, 38-year-old Anna, who lives in London, and son Julian, 40,
based in New Zealand, also declined. But Sir Roy's first wife,
Gillian, 65, who was married to him from 1961 to 1974, and other
family members, as well as former colleagues of Meadow, agreed to
reveal what they know.
Roy Meadow was born in Wigan on 9 June, 1933, to Samuel, a chartered
accountant, and Doris, a housewife. He had one sibling, Pauline, three
years older, who today lives in Suffolk, and both ended up going to
elite, feepaying public schools and on to Oxford, where Roy studied
medicine and Pauline became a scientist.
" Roy's parents weren't wealthy," family sources recalled,
"but they were incredibly driven for their children to succeed.
Doris, especially, was fantastically proud of Roy. But her affection
was - I would say - conditional upon him doing well. Roy knew the
Innocent mothers were jailed because of the theories of now
discredited paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow. In her first interview,
ex-wife Gillian reveals the man at the centre of potentially the worst
miscarriage of justice in legal history score. He had to do well.
Doris was very judging. Her children were her trophies in this rather
dreary, small town."
Another source added that Roy was not close to either parent. "As
an adult, he saw his parents (now dead) infrequently, and he fell out
with his sister, too. I would say he was a bright but lonely child.
Even today, Roy is a difficult person to know. Those closest to him
will tell you he doesn't reveal himself. You think you know him, then
you think - what do I know of him? - and the answer is,
Nevertheless, when Roy came to London in his late twenties to do his
junior-doctor training at Guy's Hospital, he was well liked.
Dr Leo Stimmler, 73, a retired consultant paediatrician who was one of
Roy's bosses there, recalled: "Roy was highly thought of.
He was a pleasant, intelligent, urbane man, a good doctor who was
popular with everybody - colleagues, students and, most importantly,
he related well to parents and children. He was quiet-spoken and
ambitious but not pushy. I had high regard for Roy."
BY then, Roy had met Gillian, an English graduate from London
University and the daughter of Sir Ian Maclennan, then the British
Ambassador to Ireland.
Their engagement made the national press. "Doctor to marry
ambassador's daughter," ran the Daily Mail of February 2, 1961.
That year, Roy and Gillian were married in Hertfordshire, and had
Julian and Anna in 1963 and 1965 respectively.
Gillian, now a journalist and author, recalled that Roy was immensely
hardworking and that, although he was indeed popular with colleagues,
he had no close friends. She was also able to throw light on the
infamous Anna Freud quote.
"Anna Freud used to give regular seminars to paediatricians and
the like and Roy occasionally went along," she explained.
"He had great admiration for Anna Freud. There was something a
little bit Bloomsbury-set about them - like an elite gathering of the
great thinkers in child health of the time. But I have no idea why he
said he was 'brought up by her'. That's stretching it a bit."
Sources describe how the accomplished expert witness that Roy would
become was already emerging at Guy's. They say he was "a very
good actor" who "knew how to project himself ", and he
came across as " believable and caring", but that beneath
the veneer was "a steely, adversarial character who liked to
Sources recall an eerie coincidence in which Meadow starred in an
amateur production of Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, playing the
role of the discredited Judge Danforth who is at the heart of the
witch-hunt that is the story of the play.
Danforth becomes judge, jury and executioner of mothers charged with -
an uncanny symmetry, this - "the unnatural murder of
children" in which the only witnesses are "the witch and the
victim". "We cannot hope that the witch will accuse
herself," opines Danforth. "Therefore, we must rely upon her
victims - and they do testify, the children certainly do
Years later, like Danforth, Roy would find himself in courts up and
down the land called to testify on behalf of dead children and
accusing mothers of their "unnatural murder".
"Roy confided in me that he found it an uncomfortable part
because he identified with this judge more than he was happy
with," a source recalled.
"I always remember Roy playing that part. He was made for it. He
In 1970, Meadow was promoted to consultant paediatrician at St James
University Hospital, Leeds, rising to head of department of
paediatrics in 1980. His career was on the up, but his marriage to
Gillian was on the skids and they divorced in 1974.
Nevertheless, she remembers his early career - including his seminal
work on Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy - with great pride.
"There had been a particular case that Roy couldn't understand of
a mother in Leeds who was poisoning her child with salt. Roy was very
caring about the children who came into his care, but this case was a
mystery. Roy correctly identified her as suffering from Munchhausen
Syndrome by Proxy. He was very courageous. He took a lot of flak at
the time. Nobody wanted to believe mothers did that sort of thing.
Later [in 1993], he was vindicated with the Beverley Allit trial.
That's when he became famous. That's when they stuck him on a
pedestal, made him the number one expert witness in the land, and
proceeded to believe everything he said."
It is widely touted that Meadow has become a millionaire off the back
of his expert witness reports (going rate is £3,000) and court
appearances (Pounds 400 an hour). Was money a key motivation?
"Well," reflected a source, "only Roy could answer
that, but money was important to him, especially as he grew up in a
family that was not wealthy, and then at Oxford, mixing with people
who were rich."
Dr Stimmler agreed that Meadow has gone too far. "Giving evidence
as a statistician was wrong. Having said that, the legal profession
are the main perpetrators of this gross miscarriage of justice. It's
utterly wrong that the courts relied so heavily on his opinion, that
his word should so easily have trumped all the other
"This is a terrible, terrible thing to have happened," said
Gillian, "first and foremost for the accused families. But I also
think it's sad a great career should end this way. I could have told
him, 'Roy, you're going over the top. You're seeing it everywhere, and
it can't be. But by then, I was no longer married to him and no longer
in a position to talk to him that way."
Copyright 2004 Associated Newspapers Ltd.