Dr Francis Edward Camps

Pioneering Pathologist

Francis Edward Camps  was born on 28 June 1905 as the oldest son of a Dr Percy Camps, a wealthy Surgeon and General Practitioner in Teddington and Alice Redfern who was a drapers daughter from Ripley in Derbyshire. Francis  proved to be a clever young man who was educated at Marlborough College and then followed his father into medicine by studying at Guys Hospital Medical School.

When he qualified in 1928 he stayed at Guys as a houseman in the team of pioneering gastroenterologist Sir Arthur Hurst before moving to Chelmsford as a General Practitioner.

The contacts made with nearby Chelmsford and Essex Hospital led to some part time employment as a pathologist and in 1930 Camps accepted a full time role which allowed him to use the mortuary to conduct his own pathology.

His first pioneering work came in relation to streptococcal infections at that time a serious problem on maternity wards.

As his prominence as a pathologist grew so did his relationship with Essex Constabulary and the Essex Coroners for whom expert evidence was becoming more and more important due to increased forensic capability and as the population and criminals became more sophisticated.

Throughout his life Camps displayed enormous energy allowing him to lecture at the London and other major Hospitals, conduct pathology at Chelmsford and maintain a surgery at Harley Street.

By 1963 he was appointed as professor having  led London Hospital to be preeminent in forensic medicine and was accepted as the foremost pathologist having been appointed as President of both the British Association in Forensic Medicine and the British Academy of Forensic Sciences.

Not only was he a hard taskmaster expecting his staff to achieve similarly high standards to his own but he could be charming when the mood took him.

Despite his eminence in medical pathology there is no doubt that his involvement in many inquests and  criminal cases brought Camps his fame and made him a sought after figure for both defence and prosecution.

The first big case to bring Camps name to national attention was the trial of John Reginald Halliday Christie - the monster of Rillington Place. Christie had already murdered several women and given false evidence to the police resulting in the hanging of innocent flatmate Timothy Evans.

The murdering spree continued until March 1935 when a man redecorating Christies old flat at Rillington Place accidentally broke the plaster and found a human body. The police broke down the wall and found three bodies. A further examination of the garden revealed two more and the bath house wall revealed two more.

Camps was called to examine the scene and then to carry out a post-mortem. Camps pieced together the skeletons in such an accurate way that they were all able to be identified and linked to Christie.

This was a difficult job as one skull alone was in over 100 pieces. At the trial the Judge publicly thanked Camps for the painstaking and skilful way that he had assembled the skeletons.

Christie was found guilty and hung and in a strange twist Camps carried out the post mortem of Christie after the hanging.

The next big case cemented his place in the public mind as the pathologist was the trial of Brian Donald Hume for the murder of Stanley Setty. The torso of Setty was found in the marshes at Tillingham.

Click here to read the story of the murder.

Camps post mortem established the cause of death but also established that the body had been dropped from a great height. The unexpected information moved the Police investigation away from Southminster to local airfields which provided the lead needed to arrest Hume.

A third case to reach national interest was that of Sergeant Reginald Watters who was found hanging in a British Army camp in Duisburg, West Germany in 1953. A local post Mortem showed that his death was consistent with hanging and this verdict was returned at the inquest.

Sergeant Frederick Emmett-Dunne quickly married Watters attractive young wife which started rumours that the death was not suicide. Camps was asked to conduct a second post-mortem a year after the death. He was able to prove that death was caused by a martial arts style blow rather than by hanging. This led to the arrest of Sergeant Emmett-Dunne who as an ex commando was training in such death blows. At trial the defendant admitted responsibility but claimed that he had acted in self-defence and demonstrated his version of the incident. Dr Camps was able to rebut this defence as scientifically implausible and Emmett Dunne was convicted of murder.

Camps HouseThe Limes, Purleigh where Camps lived for over 30 years

Camps had three wives. In 1930 he married Dulcie M Williams in Kensington. Dulcie was a nurse who met Camps when he was a Junior Doctor at Guys Hospital. Despite three children their marriage ended in divorce and Dulcie moved to Canada.

In 1942 he marries Doctor Mary Ross-Mackenzie who was nicknamed Bunny. Mary was a fellow pathologist with whom Camps had two children. Camps and Mary moved into the Limes at Purleigh, Essex in 1943 where Camps lived until his death.

Sadly Mary died in 1971 after nearly 30 years of marriage during which the Camps had featured in the local life of Purleigh.

In 1972 Camps married for the third time to Doctor Anne Elizabeth Robinson who was a toxicologist. The marriage was only to last a few months before Camps died on 8 July 1972 at Chelmsford and Essex Hospital so ending is days in the very mortuary where he had honed his skills and found fame.

His career brought fame and money both of which he enjoyed  to the full which is demonstrated by his probate records listing his financial worth at death to be just 15,936 pounds.