Bomb bus 'doctor' found dead

A New Zealand woman who told a tale about her role in helping victims of the London bombings has been found dead in her home in London.

The body of Gisborne-born Richmal-Marie Oates-Whitehead, 35, who worked in a non-doctor role for a British Medical Association publication, was found by police at Shepherds Bush on Wednesday (British time).

The Metropolitan Police say her death is not suspicious, but it will be investigated by a coroner.

The Weekend Herald understands that officers went to Ms Oates-Whitehead's home after a call from a worried relative in New Zealand.

Ms Oates-Whitehead told the Herald a tale of heroism in the aftermath of the Tavistock Square bus bombing, claiming to be a medical doctor.

Challenged by her bosses on her claims to the media, she last week resigned as an editor for Clinical Evidence, a BMA web publication.

Citing ill-health, Ms Oates-Whitehead left immediately. The BMA launched an investigation into her claims.

An official said yesterday: "It is with great regret that the BMJ Publishing Group has heard of the sudden death of Richmal Oates-Whitehead.

"Our thoughts are with Richmal's family and friends. The BMJ will be making no further comment."

Ms Oates-Whitehead had been in her BMA job for seven months and in Britain for 3 1/2 years.

She told the Herald last month that she was a medic who did the "moral and ethical thing" after terrorists blew up a bus outside the BMJ offices in central London.

She said she responded to a request to go on to the bus despite fears of a second bomb, and she spoke plausibly of helping as firefighters hurriedly cut two survivors out of the wreckage.

The Herald understands an emergency staffer did approach, seeking a medic, while Ms Oates-Whitehead was standing with her immediate employer, Dr David Tovey, and BMJ editor Fiona Godlee outside the Medical Association building.

The senior pair were pulled on to other tasks at that moment and there is no proof that Ms Oates-Whitehead got on the bus.

The BMJ refused to clarify, but post-bomb accounts of the day published on its website did not name her. A source said there was "considerable doubt what her role was on the day".

Calling herself an obstetric epidemiologist, Ms Oates-Whitehead used the titles "doctor" and "professor" in communications with colleagues in medical research group The Cochrane Collaboration, in emails, and on the internet.

She previously worked in the research department of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in London, where she also used the title doctor.

But none of her qualifications conferred such a title.

The Herald found that Ms Oates-Whitehead did not have the clinical medical qualifications she claimed, including post-graduate qualifications in forensic medicine from the University of Auckland and medical qualifications from Britain conferred through cross-credit study.

When the Herald challenged Ms Oates-Whitehead, she threatened legal action, but stuck to her claim.

She trained as a radiation therapist in 1991 - a 12-month course in Wellington with an internship at Auckland Hospital - and has a post-graduate diploma in health service management from Massey, conferred in 1997.

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