Doctor who tried to cover up girl’s death ’caused family torment for 26 years’

A mother of a nine-year-old girl has said the doctor who attempted to cover-up the circumstances of her daughter’s death put their family through 26 years of “mental torment”.

Jennifer Roberts said she will “never forgive” Dr Heather Steen, who was struck off the medical register on Friday for her actions.

Claire Roberts died at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in 1996.

Her parents were told she died of a brain virus but a public inquiry in 2018 determined that Claire’s death was as a result of “negligent care”.

“I’m angry at Dr Steen for putting us through 26 years of mental torment,” Mrs Roberts told BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra.

“Twenty-six years as a mother to fight for truth and accountability.

“The true circumstances of Claire’s death has been hidden and concealed from us as a family. Claire’s brothers Gareth and Stuart were robbed of a sister, a sister who brought so much joy, love and happiness to our family home.”

Claire’s father Alan said Dr Steen’s silence “speaks volumes about her guilt”.

“We didn’t have an opportunity to hear from Dr Steen because Dr Steen as you know decided to remain silent,” he said. “I think Dr Steen’s silence speaks volumes about her guilt.”

Mrs Roberts said the attempted cover-up had eroded their trust in the health service.

“When we look back, that night we put our trust in doctors at the Belfast Royal Hospital for Sick Children,” she said. “We left Claire that night thinking we would see her in the morning.”

The parents have vowed to continue to fight for justice for their daughter.

“This is just the start. This is a step forward. It’s progress,” Mr Roberts said.

He added: “She has been removed from the medical register in shame and disgrace. So we take it forward through other GMC investigations and… we’re there to fully assist the ongoing PSNI investigation.”

Mrs Roberts remembered Claire as “fun, loving, happy, full of energy, enjoyed life, enjoyed her family, going to school, to the park, swimming, you name it Claire was in there just enjoying life”.

“And now for that life to be robbed from me is something that I’ll never get over. The grief every day is just unbearable.”