A teary Geoffrey Smith hugs a fellow patient after hearing Jayant Patel’s guilty verdict.
A teary Geoffrey Smith hugs a fellow patient after hearing Jayant Patel’s guilty verdict. Scottie Simmonds

Patients’ joy at Patel's guilt

THE steps of the Bundaberg Court House were transformed into an impromptu party last night as patients of former Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel celebrated his manslaughter conviction.

After seven days of deliberations, the Supreme Court jury decided Patel had been responsible for the deaths of Mervyn Morris, Gerry Kemps and James Phillips.

He was also convicted of causing the grievous bodily harm of Ian Vowles.

All charges related to his time as head of surgery at Bundaberg Hospital between 2003 and 2005.

Mr Vowles, who was permanently disabled after Patel removed his bowel, said he was relieved Patel had been found guilty.

“I'm going to go home and have a beer — or four or five,” he said.

A group of patients, including Mr Vowles, rushed to the Bundaberg Court House about 6pm when word spread that a verdict was imminent.

Silence filled the video broadcast room as the jury made their way into the courtroom in Brisbane.

As with the rest of the proceedings, Bundaberg viewers were not able to see Patel or the jury as the verdict was read out.

Gasps of surprise and relief could be heard from the patients as each of the guilty findings were read out.

Tears filled Mr Vowles's eyes and he covered his face with his hands when the verdict relating to his charge was read out.

Other patients, some visibly crying, hugged with joy at what they all said was a relief and a successful end to a draining trial.

Celebrations continued on the footpath in front of the court house.

“It's just unbelievable. We never, ever thought we would see the day,” Bundaberg-Burnett Patient Support Group secretary Doris Hillier said.

“I just can't find the words to say what I'm feeling.”

Ms Hillier, now a tireless campaigner for patients, was sitting down to dinner when she heard the verdict was to be delivered, and rushed to court so she could hear the decision for herself.

Outside the Brisbane Supreme Court, Mr Kemps's wife, Judy, said she was incredibly relieved to see Patel finally brought to justice.

“It's been a long five years, but it's all over,” she said.

“It's closure, all right.”

Patient advocate Beryl Crosby said it was a huge weight gone.

“I hope with all my heart that these people and their families can move on,” she said.

Patel remained stony-faced as the verdicts were delivered.

His wife Kishoree, who has been present each day for the duration of the trial, left the court in tears as her husband was led from the dock into the cells.

Patel will be held in custody until sentencing, which has been set down for 10am tomorrow.

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