Police dramas often gloss over the importance of the post-mortem examinations, but this enthralling new memoir proves that it can often be the only way of getting to the bottom of a mystery

Police dramas often gloss over the importance of the post-mortem examinations, but this enthralling new memoir proves that it can often be the only way of getting to the bottom of a mystery. 

The book examines the fascinating career of Dr Richard Shepherd, a forensic pathologist who has been called to investigate the most notorious killings of the past 30 years, including the cases of , Michael Jackson, and Stephen Lawrence. 

His memoir, The Seven Ages of Death: A Forensic Pathologist’s Journey Through Life, explores how people of varying ages have come to sudden and often suspicious deaths. 

From a newborn who was killed by his parents belief in alternative medicine to a teenager found dead with no wounds on a camping trip, the book follows how Dr Shepherd came to a conclusion on how they died. 

Here, FEMAIL reveals some of the most fascinating cases shared in the book.  

NEWBORN KILLED BY ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE 

Dr Richard Shepherd (pictured), who has examined the cases of Princess Diana, toshangrilainn Michael Jackson, and Stephen Lawrence, has detailed his career in a fascinating new book

The memoir begins with Dr Shepherd being tasked to discover the reason behind the mysterious death of a six-month-old boy, called Ferguson.

Setting the tone for the book, he told emotional police officers that they are undertaking the grim post-mortem examination the ‘spirit of human compassion and scientific discovery’. 

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He described the officer’s utter shock and disgust after discovering red raw, bleeding nappy rash which spread from his belly and his thighs.   

The death was suspected to be the result of Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but officers began to suspect this child had been the victim of neglectful parents.  

His heart-wrenchingly honest memoir, The Seven Ages of Death: A Forensic Pathologist’s Journey Through Life, explores how people of varying ages have come to sudden and often suspicious deaths

Ferguson was notably pale, and the post-mortem examination revealed that the baby had gas in his bowel as well as fluid in the chest cavity, so much so that one of the baby’s lungs had partially collapsed. 

The newborn was also had fatty liver disease, a tell-tale sign of alcoholics and Ferguson was tested for alcohol in his system. 

Nothing was found, and Dr Shepherd discovered that parents were professionals, living in a middle-class area with no evidence of drinking or drug abuse in the home. There were no other signs of ill treatment on Ferguson.  

The pathologist began to suspect a congenital problem was to blame for the boy’s death, believing an inherited a faulty gene could mean the child could not metabolize part of his diet.  

Biochemistry results revealed that Ferguson had died when his liver function became fatally impaired by consuming fructose as he was being weaned on to solid foods.  

The baby’s parents were soon questioned, with the inspector keen to find out why this problem- which if picked up can be dealt with – was left untreated. 

Soon they found that the father, who had styled himself as a doctor, was actually practicing a non-recognised form of homeopathic medicine and the child had not received any checkup visits or vaccinations since birth.  

When the parents had noticed their baby crying excessively they reluctantly took him to a GP – who suggested using a cream to clear up his nappy rash. 

But the couple refused, appalled at the suggestion of Western medicine, and when they began feeding their baby fruits, veg, molasses, cider vinegar and honey, they had no idea it would eventually kill him.  

While the inspector wished to take the case against the couple forward, the CPS did not feel it was sufficient.

The couple later had another child, who they refused to allow to be tested for the condition.  

TEEN LOVERS WHOSE DEATHS REMAINS A MYSTERY  

One August, Dr Shepherd was called to a camping site near a popular beauty spot, where he was tasked with helping solve the case of two dead teenagers. 

The body of a 16-year-old girl called Amelia was discovered in sleeping bag inside her tent, wearing a thick pair of pyjamas with no wounds, signs that her clothing had been penetrated or blood stains.

There was no indication of violence or sexual activity. 

Next to the body was an empty second sleeping bag, as well as clothes and shoes and a used disposable BBQ. 

Immediately the pathologist suspected carbon monoxide poisoning produced by the BBQ, but officers were sceptical –  convinced that her boyfriend Jay, who was nowhere to be found, would have died beside her.

The doctor explains to readers that personal sensitivity to the saturation of carbon monoxide in the blood differs for each individual.

He said that while some may die from a certain amount of the gas, others will simply appear drunk. 

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