Gas mask needed for dad’s post-mortem


Extra measures were taken by pathologists when examining the body of a dad who was killed last year.

Stephen Chapman had been stabbed through the head with a military-style dagger before being put head first inside a wheelie bin and acid poured over the body.

Stephen Chapman's body was found in a fetal position, upside down in a wheelie bin and doused with sulphuric acid, the court heardStephen Chapman's body was found in a fetal position, upside down in a wheelie bin and doused with sulphuric acid, the court heard
Stephen Chapman’s body was found in a fetal position, upside down in a wheelie bin and doused with sulphuric acid, the court heard

Warning: there are details in this story some readers may find distressing

George Knights, 19, of Delce Road, Rochester is on trial accused of murdering Mr Chapman in October last year. He has denied the charge.

Pathologist Benjamin Swift has told a jury how the Fire Brigade were needed to transport the body of the 39 year old – still inside the bin – to the mortuary at Medway Maritime Hospital.

Dr Swift told Maidstone Crown Court: “It was necessary to adopt full PPE in order to just examine him externally, which included heavy-duty gloves, a respirator and gas mask, which blocked out the risk of inhaling the acid gases.”

Dr Swift explained how five foot 11 inch Mr Chapman’s body had been found head down wrapped in a white fitted bed sheet. There was also a black plastic bin liner and a “heavily blood-stained turquoise towel” there as well.

George Knights, 19, is accused of murdering Stephen 'Ginger' ChapmanGeorge Knights, 19, is accused of murdering Stephen 'Ginger' Chapman
George Knights, 19, is accused of murdering Stephen ‘Ginger’ Chapman

He was asked by the prosecutor if he had been able to perform a normal post-mortem on the body.

The pathologist told the jury: “A post mortem would normally consist of a lengthy external examination of the body surface to look for injuries or wounds.

“That would be followed by an internal examination to look for further injuries. In this case I was only able to perform an external examination.”

Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC asked if Mr Chapman was dead before the acid was poured over his body.

Dr Swift told the jury: “The appearances were that all of this acid related damage had occurred after he had died.”

Read more from this trial

He added that he found no defence wounds on Mr Chapman’s body which normally occur during an assault where the victim had attempted to defend themselves.

And he also told the jury that neither did he find any “offensive” injuries, like bruised or fractured knuckles which would suggest he had struck out at an assailant.

The court heard how a “double-edged military style commando dagger” had been left embedded to the right side of Mr Chapman’s head.

The pathologist added that “severe” force had been used to inflict the fatal knife wound.

The case continues

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