Post-mortem of dad doused in acid halted as it melted floor and endangered staff

A post-mortem examination of a dad doused in sulphuric acid was halted after the fluid melted the floor and put hospital staff at risk, a jury heard.

Pathologist Benjamin Swift said full PPE clothing, including heavy-duty glove and a gas mask, had to be worn just to assess the injuries to father of five Stephen Chapman.

The 38-year-old was allegedly stabbed in the head with a commando dagger and then dumped head-first in a wheelie bin and doused in acid by teenager George Knights in October last year.

Maidstone Crown Court was told the fire service had to transport his body – still inside the bin – from 19-year-old Knights’ home in Rochester, Kent, to the mortuary at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Chatham.

But before the post-mortem examination could begin, the fluids damaged a stainless steel body tray and melted the floor.

Giving evidence yesterday, Dr Swift described how 5ft 11in Mr Chapman was found head-down, wrapped in a bed sheet and with a heavily blood-stained towel.

He was asked by prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC 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.”

The post-mortem examination then had to be halted because of the lack of specialist facilities, the court heard.

“(It was stopped) because of the chemicals and the risk from the acid gases,” explained the pathologist.

“There were no specialist facilities at the hospital for environmental monitoring, as well as the disposal of any fluids.

“Nor was there enough PPE for us to work safely in that environment. So the examination was stopped.”

He said enquiries were made to hospitals across the country but none were able to offer an alternative venue.

Dr Swift confirmed that all the acid-related damage to Mr Chapman’s face, skull, brain and fingers had occurred after death.

The double-edged military knife was embedded in the right side of his head to a depth of 16cm, which would have required severe force, added Dr Swift.

He also told the jury that there were no defensive wounds on Mr Chapman’s body, or any signs such as bruised or fractured knuckles to suggest he had struck out at an assailant.

Knights, a keen bodybuilder said by the court to run an amphetamine factory dubbed Superhuman Labs from his home in Delce Road, is alleged to have murdered Mr Chapman during a cocaine exchange.

The court heard that having fatally stabbed and tried to destroy the body, the teenager met up with friends and partied throughout the night, pausing simply to return home and take photos of the wheelie bin, with Mr Chapman’s feet holding the lid ajar.

Tests following Knights’ arrest the following day revealed he had taken a cocktail of illegal and prescription drugs, including seven types of steroids.

Knights has been charged with murder, which he denies.

The trial continues.