Expert witness in death of a chef
THE mother of a Scottish chef who apparently fell to his death from a block of flats has revealed she has taken a course in forensic medicine to help her discover the truth about how he died.
The body of David Dempsey, the 31-year-old head chef of Gordon Ramsay's top-ranked Chelsea restaurant, was discovered at the foot of the London building in 2003 after an apparent drug-fuelled rampage.
According to expert evidence given at an inquest, which recorded a verdict of accidental death, Dempsey was acting under the effect of "excited delirium" caused by a mix of cocaine and alcohol. He climbed up scaffolding, broke into flats and smashed windows with a stolen golf club before falling from 60ft into a basement below.
But Eileen Dempsey, a religion and moral affairs teacher at Clydebank High School, says she has never accepted the inquest findings and believes the police investigation into her son's death was flawed.
She has now undertaken a part-time course at Glasgow University in forensic medical science to help her question the findings.
Eileen, who lives in the Maryhill area of Glasgow, said: "I have a lot of reservations about their version of events and where his body was found, so I decided to educate myself better to try to understand more about what happened.
"I was the only one on the course without a scientific, medical or legal background, so I felt a bit out of place. But as one of the lecturers told me, if a body is found at the bottom of a block of flats then you should not just assume it fell there. It could have been pushed or placed there."
Dempsey's death is about the only setback to hit superchef Ramsay on his inexorable rise to international fame. Last week, five Ramsay restaurants, including the one where Dempsey worked, were named in a list of top 10 eateries in London.
Scots-born Ramsay, a star of celebrity cooking TV shows, is currently expanding his empire to the US.
He and Dempsey, who had left his partner and the couple's two children back in Glasgow after his London move, met for dinner on the Saturday night before the tragedy.
The inquest heard that Dempsey told a fellow chef in a club the following Sunday evening that he had taken cocaine earlier that day before meeting him for a drink. But after leaving the club to go home, he climbed scaffolding and broke into an empty flat in Fulham.
Witnesses said they saw him smashing windows and jumping between window ledges of the flats before tumbling 60ft to his death.
At his inquest, coroner Dr Paul Knapman was told toxicology tests showed Dempsey had a blood-cocaine level of 1.36mg per litre, above the level associated with fatalities.
Knapman said he was satisfied by the evidence that Dempsey had taken alcohol and cocaine and may have suffered a psychotic reaction, known as excited delirium. "The typical scenario is rapid onset of paranoia followed by aggression towards objects, particularly glass," the coroner said.
Eileen Dempsey, who always wears a pendant with the image of her son David around her neck, maintains that he was afraid of heights and would have been loath to climb high scaffolding. He was also vehemently opposed to taking drugs and none of his family had ever known him to use cocaine.
She also believes the initial police investigation was not thorough enough, which was partially supported by the Metropolitan Police's Department of Professional Standards - it made recommendations to the borough commander in charge of the case following a complaint from her.
She maintains the borough commander refused to seek new witnesses, re-interview existing ones or re-investigate David's mobile phone records, as the DPS had suggested.
Following the forensics course, which covered scenes-of-crime and toxicology among other subjects, Eileen is now also questioning the post-mortem report compiled by a Home Office pathologist.
She claims police told the pathologist her son had died in a fall, so he only looked for injuries consistent with a fall, rather than a fight. Yet the knuckles of his left hand had all the skin scraped off and his fingers were bruised.
He was also lying on his back when found - unusual, claims his mother, for a fall from height. Police reports said the occupant of the flat outside which Dempsey was found did not hear him land outside his window.
"My view is that it was considered a fall right from the start with no other option," Eileen said. "They thought it was an open-and-shut case of an immigrant - David looked like an Arab because his father was from Mauritius - falling during a burglary, and that was that.
"The reality is, I still don't know how my child met his death, which is why I can't move on."
The Metropolitan Police said it was satisfied that the incident was "thoroughly investigated at the time".
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