FANTASY WORLD OF THE BUTCHER BABY SURGEON; Doctor accused of botching 418 operations on women lived like a squire in Cork.
The 62-year-old once boasted he was "the fastest gynaecologist in the southeast [of England]" after carrying out SEVEN hysterectomies in one morning, when one should usually take five hours.
But before news of his surgical incompetence became widespread, Ledward was a respected figure in his adopted home town of Dromahane near Mallow, Co Cork.
Locals knew little about the man they regarded as a wealthy newcomer, but admired him nonetheless as he cut a dash through the streets impeccably dressed in colourful waistcoats and fine clothes.
Now they are stunned to hear that six men believe their wives died at his hands after operations in Kent, England, and that he was struck off the British medical register in 1998 after being found guilty of bungling 13 operations.
Ledward is now facing a criminal investigation by Kent Police over allegations that he assaulted patients over a 16-year period.
The disgraced surgeon lived the life of an old fashioned English gent in the small north Cork village.
He bought a large bungalow on a quiet country road there just a year ago.
And he spared no expense in furnishing the rooms with designer furniture, placing expensive woollen rugs on the polished wooden floors.
One local said: "We just cannot believe he is the man described as The Butcher. He struck us as so rich and upper-class British.
"He said he loved country living and that he intended setting up a stud farm where he would breed thoroughbred horses.
"He loved horse racing and was a regular at Cork racecourse in Mallow.
"We knew absolutely nothing about his past because he didn't speak about it and the first indication we had about his previous history was when the media started to descend on the area."
Ledward's bungalow, which is finished in old Cork stone and painted a distinctive burgundy, sits on a third of an acre of landscaped grounds with manicured lawns.
It's a perfect setting for a peaceful retirement with colourful flower beds and a beautiful rockery.
The home has a magnificent view of rolling countryside with farmlands and woodlands all around.
One local woman told the Irish Mirror: "He loved the peacefulness of the locality and hated going back to London.
"However, he said he had to go regularly because he had a medical condition which was being treated there.
"He certainly looked as if he had money. He acted the country gentleman and drove around in a customised Range Rover. He also had a sports car which made an impression.
"He said he was retired and was enjoying relaxing in his dream home."
Ledward had all the trappings of a wealthy man and his lifestyle certainly indicated that he was not short of money, and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of his adopted home.
One shocked neighbour said: "He was on a nodding and a waving acquaintance with his neighbours rather than being very friendly.
"He tended to keep to himself and to do his own thing, but he was regarded as a likeable and respectable character who added to the local community."
As Ledward's alleged victims and families struggled to come to terms with their ordeals, he dined in the most expensive local restaurants.
He professed to be a wine connoiss-eur and always chose the most expensive bottle on the menu.
He visited some of Cork's most exclusive golf clubs and was also seen around the Royal Cork Yacht Club and Kinsale Marina, where he displayed a keen interest in yachting.
And although he lived alone he was often seen in the company of attractive women, mostly younger than himself.
Neighbours said he treated them well and they joined him in his favourite pubs and restaurants.
When the Irish Mirror called to his home yesterday Ledward was not there, but locals said they believed he had gone on holiday to Spain.
One said: "If he did those dreadful things to all those women then you can take it that we don't want him back here in our community.
"It's so difficult to believe that the man we met is the same one who earned the name of The Butcher.
"You never know, do you? You can't take anything on face value these days. He was so kind, gentle and nice there was never any indication of his other life."
Kent Police yesterday confirmed they have begun a criminal investigation into the disgraced surgeon.
Ledward was originally suspended by the General Medical Council in 1996, but continued to practise in private.
However, he was eventually struck off in 1998 after an NHS review of 150 operations he had performed over the preceding three years had shown there had been complications in about one third of them.
Almost 200 of the 500 women who complained about their treatment at Ledward's hands lodged compensation claims for operations he performed between 1980 an 1996 while he was a consultant gynaecologist at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.
The compensation cases are believed to represent the largest number of medical negligence claims ever made against an individual doctor.
His conduct even sparked a British government inquiry in a bid to prevent anything like it happening again.
Women complained of Ledward's operations being unnecessary, including removal of one patient's ovaries without her consent.
Others claimed that as a result of his incompetence they suffered years of distress and medical problems, including incontinence.
Ledward, who earned pounds 200,000 a year, shrugged off reports of the police probe.
Before leaving for Spain he said: "I know the police are looking into it, but I am confident they will realise that I have done nothing wrong.
"This whole thing has been a political soap opera. I know I have done nothing wrong.
"I'm not going to appeal because I don't feel there is any point. I have been a fall-guy."
Even last year, three years after being struck off by the General Medical Council and after a disastrous spell working in Kuwait, he was unrepentant.
He said at the time: "To treat a person of my status in this manner was very, very shabby."
And when asked about his disastrous record he claimed: "If you analyse the work of all busy gynaecologists across the land you would have a similar pattern in 90 per cent of them."
Ledward still refuses to accept the evidence against him, even questioning the motives of 511 women who contacted South East Kent Community Health Council with concerns.
He said: "I cannot believe they are sick. Have they been hurt? Or have they just come out of the woodwork because there is a smell of money?"
He did admit to seeing some patients while wearing jodhpurs and full riding gear on Sundays, but said criticism of his behaviour amounted to jealousy.
He said: "I may have seemed a slightly nauseating extrovert.
"However, I treated the patient as a patient. And I apologised to these patients at the General Medical Council's preliminary hearing.
"You don't set out to harm patients, you do your very best. I never had the classic clipboard, shoulders-drooped, worry-faced, can't-cope look."
Ledward still claims everything he did was out of love for his patients.
He said: "You are not speaking to Mr Perfect. I admit I have made mistakes and I've apologised, but I was no better and no worse than any other doctor.
"I love women. I have loved a 94-year-old granny who I used to give my carnation to and I have loved a 12-year-old patient."
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Jun 2, 2000|
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