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The devoted paediatrician killed in her drive as she left for work

16th August 2007

Police believe that a consultant paediatrician may have been murdered by the disgruntled parent of one of her patients.

Victoria Anyetei, 53, was stabbed numerous times in a frenzied attack in her driveway on Tuesday morning.

Her body was discovered two hours later by her 19-year-old son, Andrew. Police said that the killer may have been lying in wait to ambush the doctor as she got into her silver Toyota Avensis car.

Dr Anyetei had a daily routine of leaving her house every day at 8am. She drove to Dartford station and then boarded a train to Central London to go to St Thomas’ Hospital, where she worked.

Chief Superintendent Gary Beautridge, of Kent Police, said: “It’s a truly extraordinary crime as these things hardly ever happen: a middle-aged, professional, well-respected, upstanding, devout Christian member of the community attacked in a frenzied way and struck down in broad daylight.”

One of Dr Anyetei’s neighbours told The Times yesterday that in the early hours of Monday they had confronted a stranger who had been acting suspiciously in the quiet cul-de-sac they shared in Dartford, Kent. The stranger immediately drove off.

The neighbour said: “My boyfriend came back from a night shift at 1am to see him standing there. He immediately got in his car and drove off.”

Her nephew, David, last night paid tribute to his “wonderful auntie”, adding: “I am extremely shocked. No one can believe something like this could happen to my auntie. She did not have a bad bone in her body. She was very religious and had time for everyone. It does sound like it was planned.”

Another nephew, Phillip Anyetei, said his aunt was an innocent victim.

He said: “I am just devastated. We all are. It has not sunk in and none of us can believe it.

“I was going to see her this weekend. She was really looking forward to going to see her uncle in South Africa. She’d been planning it for ages. She was also looking forward to sending her son Andrew to study law at Canterbury University, in Kent.

“The man who did this is just a coward. He should be locked up for life. He could have killed anyone – why was it her? My Auntie was a wonderful woman. I just can’t believe it.”

Mr Beautridge said that police officers would be investigating links with her work and interviewing parents of children whom she had treated. He said it was “probable” that she had been targeted specifically.

“That particular aspect will be looked at and it will be looked at in some detail,” Mr Beautridge said.

Neighbours said that Andrew had let out a “bloodcurdling scream” when he discovered his mother’s body. He had been yards away inside the family’s house.

One said: “I heard this screaming – really loud, bloodcurdling shrieking. I ran outside and saw Andrew on the driveway of his home. He was going mad, just staring at his mum’s car.

“Then I saw Victoria. She was behind the wheel with her head cocked back. Blood was everywhere. I went over but could immediately tell this wasn’t an accident.

“Other neighbours were trying to comfort Andrew, but he was still screaming. It was pandemonium.”

A post-mortem examination yesterday confirmed the cause of death as multiple stab wounds to the upper body.

Dr Anyetei, who had worked as a locum consultant paediatrician at St Thomas’ Hospital since Christmas, was born in Ghana and qualified as a doctor in Prague in 1982. She became registered as a doctor in Britain in 1997. Two years later she became a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatricians and began her advanced training, which was completed in 2004. During this time she also worked as a senior registrar at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Her colleagues yesterday paid tribute to her medical and personal qualities. Frances Flinter, clinical director of children’s services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We were extremely sad to learn of Dr Victoria Anyetei’s tragic death and our condolences go out to all her family and friends. Victoria had a lovely warm manner with the children she cared for and they in turn always responded very well to her. They liked having her as their doctor. She was also the sort of doctor that parents instinctively have faith in and she will be very sadly missed by her patients, their parents and all her colleagues.”

Her former minister at the United Reformed Church in Dartford, the Rev Ted Landon, told The Times yesterday: “She was a valued member of the congregation and very active in church affairs even though she was a doctor and had very little spare time. She was a very kind lady. We are all absolutely appalled.”

Margaret Aidoo, a friend of Dr Anyetei, said that she had last seen her on Sunday, when she had seemed her usual self. She said that her friend did not have any personal problems.

Mr Beautridge said yesterday that 20 officers were working on the inquiry. He said they were keeping an open mind: “Someone out there may be able to help us throw some light on what the motive was. This is an horrific and tragic crime,” he said.

The profession of paediatrician, one of the most highly regarded and rewarding specialities in medicine, has come under threat and increasing scrutiny in recent years. Treating a child is not like treating a miniature adult, and child health experts deploy their knowledge and skills across nearly all branches of medicine, from their patient’s birth to their teenage years.

But cases in which doctors offer their professional opinion after children have died or suffered abuse are highly charged affairs. Paediatricians’ judgments may also determine the future of children whose custody is disputed, marking them out as a potential target of parents’ recriminations.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health estimates one in seven paediatricians has been the subject of a formal complaint about child protection, while more than 75,000 health workers were attacked by patients, carers or relatives last year.

Many attacks are on casualty or mental health wards. But child health experts have also voiced concern for their livelihood, expressing fears that the numbers of potential recruits seeking to join their ranks will slow, and that vulnerable children will suffer because medical regulators are too willing to listen to parents’ complaints.

The General Medical Council (GMC) denied it was “hounding” paediatricians in June after several high-profile cases challenged the opinions of qualified witnesses. Sir Roy Meadow, a child expert, was reinstated on the medical register by a High Court judge last year after being struck off over evidence he gave in the case of Sally Clark, the wrongly jailed solicitor. David Southall, a fellow paediatrician, was also banned from working in child protection cases by the GMC after he wrongly accused Mrs Clark’s husband of murdering the couple’s children.

The Society of Expert Witnesses says fewer paediatricians have come forward to act as witnesses since the rulings. Yet the child protection system hinges on the willingness of doctors to raise concerns about patients, whether proved right or wrong.

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