Body exhumed 11 years after burial

Chris Rochester who died while on holiday on the holiday isle of Rhodes.
Chris Rochester who died while on holiday on the holiday isle of Rhodes.
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THE body of a man who died in Rhodes 11 years ago has been exhumed as his family accuse Greek authorities of a cover-up.

In the early hours of today, crime scene investigators from Durham Police went to the grave of Christopher Rochester, in Ropery Lane Cemetery, in Chester-le-Street.

Christopher, from Chester-le-Street, was 24 when he fell 30ft from a balcony in his holiday hotel on June 24, 2000, in Faliraki. He died from internal bleeding after lying on a hospital trolley for several hours.

In 2008, one of the three doctors who treated him, Stergios Pavlidis, was convicted of neglecting Christopher during his time in hospital. He was sentenced to 15 months in jail for manslaughter, suspended for three years.

When Christopher’s body was returned to the UK it was missing the left kidney. Greek authorities then sent a kidney to the UK but the DNA did not match.

Greek officials disputed the DNA findings. It was announced in 2010 that the kidney incident would be investigated further and, after discussions with the British Government, it was agreed the only way to resolve the matter was to exhume Christopher’s body.

Last July, a formal exhumation order was granted by County Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle to allow for samples to be taken from Christopher’s remains.

Christopher’s mother, Pam Cummings thinks her exhumation ordeal could have been avoided.

She said: “The Greek authorities have said it is necessary, but all our professionals have said that it isn’t and that my DNA would be enough to prove that the kidney belonged to Chris or not.

“Every step of the way has been a huge fight. We had little co-operation from the Greek authorities when they were going through the manslaughter case – sometimes no co-operation.”

Christopher’s body was today taken to the University Hospital of North Durham and samples will be sent to a Belgian laboratory for independent analysis. The Greek authorities did not want the tests carried out in the UK.

Christopher’s stepfather, George Cummings, is determined to find the truth.

He said: “Chris was still conscious and speaking up to an hour and 20 minutes after his fall. So work it out for yourself.”

The Cummings family’s cause has been backed by their MP, Kevan Jones, who pointed to the findings of genetics expert Professor Sir John Burn, of Newcastle University, who conducted the DNA test.

Mr Jones said: “The facts in this case point quite clearly that a kidney was removed to hide the reasons why Christopher died.

“The DNA test has already been done and looked at by Professor Burn, who not only is the leading expert in this country, but internationally. It would be very strange if this suddenly turns out to be Chris’ kidney.”

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho