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Defence barrister who got university off the hook.

BRIAN Escott-Cox QC is most famous for successfully prosecuting the first case in the world where a murderer was brought to justice on DNA evidence.

He said: "In the course of my career I as fortunate enough to do a number of extremely challenging cases one of which, of course, was the defence of Birmingham University over the smallpox outbreak. "Later I was briefed to prosecute the very first case in the history of the world where a murderer was brought to justice and convicted on DNA evidence.

"That was the infamous case of Colin Pitchfork which was held at Leicester Crown Court in October 1988 and brought me, I am bound to say, generally unwanted fame.

"I practised for many years on the Midland Circuit and I was involved in a great many homicide and such cases. I eventually retired in 2009."

Defending the University of Birmingham in the smallpox case remains a vivid memory.

He said: "It was clear to me before the case even started that we were going to be able to prove absolutely beyond any question of doubt whatsoever, that airborne infection of smallpox cannot take place other than between two people who are face to face, less than ten inches apart."

"Unhappily, inevitably, once you have proven beyond any question of doubt that the smallpox could not have escaped from the laboratory and gone to Janet Parker, the overwhelming inference is that Janet Parker must, in some way or other, have come to the smallpox.

"How that came about, I don't know, we shall never know, but I think from those facts it is an inevitable inference and nothing else really stands up to any common sense view.

"I have my own personal views about this. I need, I think, to be very careful about how I express them because part of it is factual and inferences which might be drawn from proven facts and the other is probably little more than gossip."

Mr Escott-Cox said: "There were some rumours circulating at the time - and I emphasise that they were only rumours - that Janet Parker used to visit her colleagues in the medical school at about this time of year as she was a photographer and able to supply them with any photographic needs they might need for their summer holidays.

"Whether that might possibly have led her to tap on the outer laboratory door or do anything of the sort is pure speculation and it is speculation of a route down which I am not going to go.

"But I emphasise that even the question of her visiting colleagues and the photographic materials was based only on rumour gathered, circulating in the medical school at the time of her death.

"Nobody ever came forward and supported that with a statement of any description."

The mystery of how Mrs Parker came to be infected is unlikely to ever be solved conclusively.

But the outbreak was contained.

There were no further cases, and there have been none since.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 2, 2018
Words:517
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