BACKGROUNDER: Pervert doctor had tried to commit suicide before 1990 abuse trial

Paedophile Michael Salmon pictured in 1990, and, below outside court this week (second image courtesy of BBC)
Paedophile Michael Salmon pictured in 1990, and, below outside court this week (second image courtesy of BBC)

In an unusual move, the judge presiding over Michael Salmon’s case allowed the jury hear how he had already been convicted in 1990 of molesting young patients.

He had switched his pleas as his trial was poised to start in November 1990 and admitted indecently assaulting three girls in the 1980s, who were aged 12 to 16 years at the time.

Michael Salmon arrives at court (image courtesy of BBC News) PNL-150502-154238001

Michael Salmon arrives at court (image courtesy of BBC News) PNL-150502-154238001

One young patient at that time said Salmon had taken her to a field, rubbing her body until she was ‘quivering and shaking’, taken her to his family home and visited her childhood bedroom, where he asked if he should come “inside or outside” her.

She was 12 years old at the time and wore jeans with a broken zipper, to see him one day in the hope he wouldn’t be able to touch her.

Salmon claimed she used to write him love letters, telling his current trial that he had been “extremely foolish”, but only once engaged in “heavy petting” with her when she was “all over him” in his car.

He also admitted “snogging” a 17-year-old in hospital accommodation while she was doing work experience alongside him.

She said he had become “increasingly inappropriate” in his position as her doctor, cuddling her and holding her hand, culminating in the late night visit where he tried to have sex with her, before ejaculating on her body.

In the wake of the 2012 Jimmy Savile sex scandal at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where Salmon had also worked, a number of women came forward with historic complaints about their doctor abusing them.

Unusually, a judge ruled that the jury of five women and seven men would be able to hear details of the former doctor’s previous convictions for sexual crimes dating to the same period as the current complaints.

Salmon’s previous impropriety had come to light in 1987 during an audit inquiry in the hospital, 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.

As five women made allegations of indecent assault and rape against Salmon, he protested his innocence, and so after hearings in Aylesbury and Reading, the case was listed for trial, which was delayed by the three suicide attempts Salmon made in the run-up to the court dates.

On the first day of his trial on November 19, on the advice of his legal team, 55-year-old Salmon admitted assaults on three girls, one of whom was aged just 12 years at the time.

He denied six other similar charges and prosecutors accepted the plea deal, leaving the remaining charges for sexual assaults on two other women, as well as the fraud offences, to lie on his file.

Jean Southworth QC, prosecuting, said investigations suggested that Salmon had “attempted to gratify himself sexually in some perverted way.”

Robin Stewart QC, defending, said Salmon had tried to kill himself three times since January 1989 at important times during the investigations against him.

“He knows that his career as a paediatrician is completely at an end and the fall in his professional career is a great one,” he told the court.

“The suffering will be with him for life. These suicide attempts are the greatest evidence of the real sense of shame Dr Salmon has about his wrong doing.”

Salmon was held in the medical wing at Winchester Prison until sentencing on December 17, when Judge John Murchie jailed him for three years for “breaking the trust” that had been placed in him as a doctor.

He served around 18 months in Grendon Underwood Prison and was struck off the medical register, never returning to his profession.

Taking to the stand in his latest trial, Salmon told Reading Crown Court he accepted two out of the three offences, and had been advised at the time to plead guilty to all three due to the strength of the case against him.

His voice cracked with emotion as he spoke of the three suicide attempts he made during the investigation.

Miranda Moore QC, prosecuting, told the court: “You serially abused young girls who came to you for help.”

Salmon replied: “I pleaded guilty to three cases of indecent assault.”

Asked what he recalled from the time, Salmon told jurors: “I felt guilt, remorse.

“I felt awful, I felt destroyed, I felt helpless - hopeless.

“I let them (the victims) down.”

The third victim which Salmon pleaded guilty to touching, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was a patient who visited him with a heart murmur aged 13 years.

With similarities to many of the latest complainants, she was a teenage patient who he inappropriately touched during a medical check, when he gave her an internal examination for a non-gynaecological condition.

She said her doctor would ask her if she was sexually active and told her that if she was on her period, she could please her boyfriend with her mouth or bottom.

During her last visit with him, at 15 years, he pushed his fingers inside her, said she could have sex with him and booked her a private appointment for a Saturday. Scared, she took a friend along who wouldn’t let Salmon see her alone, causing him to get angry, before they fled the building.

Salmon previously told the court this could not have been true as the hospital would have been closed and he didn’t have keys or any way to gain access. Under cross-examination he conceded he may have touched the outside of her genitals but had never put his fingers inside her.

Ms Moore said: “You had broken professional ethics, you had cheated on your wife, you had committed criminal offences, and that’s leaving aside the fraud offences.”

She asked Salmon whether he ever pretended the young girls were at fault when he spoke about his actions, for instance with the girl he touched in his car.

“Not at all,” Salmon said. “I was at fault. I should have been upright about this whole business and not succumbed to the electricity that was obviously between us.

“She was all over me. She’s the one who wanted to marry me.”

Ms Moore countered: “She was 12 years old. She made all the running? She made sexual advances to you at 12?

“Do you understand the concept of grooming?”

Salmon replied: “I know exactly what the word means.”

Ms Moore said: “Do you accept that you would groom young female patients?”

Salmon said: “No, I do not.”

FROM LECHERY TO LEPIDOPTERY

Pervert Michael Salmon, who was once praised by Princess Diana for his charity work with sick children, reinvented himself as a butterfly expert when he was released from prison after serving time for sexually abusing girls as young as 12 years.

The former doctor published The Aurelian Legacy in 2001, described as a ‘fascinating account of the men and women who have made valuable contributions to our knowledge of British butterflies’.

Blurbs describe Salmon, now aged 80 years, as an ‘amateur lepidopterist’ with a ‘passion’ for butterflies, saying: “Although Michael Salmon trained and practised as a doctor and is the author of two medical textbooks, his passion from the age of eleven has been butterflies.”

His long-standing interest in wildlife even saw Salmon travel to Zambia in September 1984 with the BBC Natural History Unit.

A younger Salmon had focussed on a career in medicine, first coming to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the site of many of the allegations made against him, in 1961, for a paediatric secondment, lasting six months.

His medical career had then taken him to hospitals in Middlesex, London, and Ibadan, Nigeria, before he had taken up a senior registrar position in Lincoln, Lincolnshire.

Salmon worked as a locum consultant in Maidestone, Gravesend and Dartford, before being headhunted for a top position in developmental medicine in Oxford.

Speaking proudly in the dock, Salmon, who comes from a distinguished family of doctors going back several generations, name-dropped eminent doctors he had worked alongside in his new position.

In 1969 the doctor, now specialising in children’s growth disorders and neurological problems, such as migraines, returned to Stoke Mandeville where serial pervert Savile targeted patients for sex attacks during his time as a fundraiser there.

While the men did not know each other during their time at the hospital, Salmon’s son had appeared on Savile’s Jim’ll Fix it programme.

One of his patients and alleged victims recalled seeing a picture from Jim’ll Fix It hanging on Salmon’s consulting room wall.

The black and white photograph, shown to the jury, showed a young boy holding a microphone from when Salmon’s eldest son Martin had appeared on the popular television show alongside Irish horse racing commentator Peter O’Sullivan.

Salmon said it was one of six family photos displayed in his office, alongside an image of a red panda he had adopted from Whipsnade Zoo, which children often asked about.

During these years he lived in Buckland, near Aston Clinton, after his second marriage in 1979 to a nursery nurse working at the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital.

“My eldest son contacted the BBC and said he would like to go on Jim’ll Fix It,” Salmon explained. “Martin was a bit of a celebrity when he appeared on it.”

Salmon’s son, the eldest of two, changed his surname, moved out of the family home and cut ties with his father following his previous conviction for child sex assaults.

In 1969 Salmon had set up the developmental assessment unit at the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital, only the fourth such unit in the country at the time.

He was also instrumental in the building of a special care baby unit at the hospital and helped to raise between £50,000 and £70,000 for much needed equipment for the hospital’s paediatric unit.

Salmon worked at Stoke Mandeville until the late 1980s, when he was convicted for sexually abusing youngsters and subsequently jailed in 1990.

Before this, his special interest and work in the field of migraine led to him being appointed as a consultant paediatrician of the British Migraine Association in London, and he was the first doctor in the country to run trials of a pioneering preventative medicine.

Salmon authored 38 scientific papers and a text book used by doctors, chaired the World Paediatric Congress held in 1986 and served on a number of professional bodies, including the Royal College of Physicians.

Shortly before his first arrest, Salmon was hailed by Princess Diana for taking 300 ill and disabled children to Disney World in Florida.

He was asked to join the inaugural Dreamflight charity trip, co-founded by former British Airways cabin crew member Patricia Pearce in 1987, as chief medical officer.

The former doctor said he was phoned by British Airways and asked to pick 300 ‘very sick and handicapped’ children who would benefit from the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Princess Diana waved the flight off from Heathrow Airport, with 298 young children aboard, including one of the girls who later claimed Salmon indecently touched her during a medical appointment.

The former doctor said she had been suffering from depression after a bout of glandular fever and he thought the trip would lift her spirits.

Before she’d come to understand that what he had done to her amounted to abuse, the girl said she had written a reference for Salmon when he was first being investigated for fraud.

She wrote: “He was very kind and very understanding towards my illness.

“He arranged a special trip to Disney World. Dreamflight was the best five days of my life, I will never forget it.”

The charity has since taken more than 5,000 children abroad on its holidays.

On release from prison, Salmon lived at Woodgreen in the New Forest area of Hampshire with his wife Susie, pursuing his interests in butterflies and photography.

More recently the couple set up home in Park Lane, Salisbury, before he was once more charged with sexually abusing youngsters. His wife has stood by him, supporting him each day in court during his five-week trial.