Patient to sue hospital after £50,000 necklace goes missing

June 10, 2010 | by | 1 Comment

A patient is planning legal action against a hospital after her unique £50,000 diamond necklace vanished while she was unconscious following a fall at home.

Psychologist Dr Valerie Stewart, 65, realised her 3.5 carat yellow diamond pendant was missing when she woke after six days in a coma.

The necklace is irreplaceable because it was given to her to commend her work with the black community during the Apartheid years in South Africa.

X-rays prove she was wearing the chain when she was admitted to Yeovil District Hospital in Somerset but it is missing in later scans.

Hospital staff failed to take a patient property log when Dr Stewart was admitted and have no idea where the jewellery is.

But bosses have refused to compensate her and she is now consulting solicitors over legal action.

Dr Stewart said: ”When a patient comes in unconscious they are supposed to take an inventory of everything the patient has on them and they didn’t do that in my case.

”There are x-rays taken of my head and shoulders when I was admitted to hospital that clearly show the chain.

”In later x-rays it is gone. I found my patient property sheet and it wasn’t completed until 12 days after I’d been in hospital.

”I can produce a whole bunch of witnesses who can say that ‘Valerie never took the necklace off,’ and I think the hospital is just being disingenuous.

”If necessary I’m going to issue court proceedings. I’d rather have the necklace – it was the most precious thing I’ve ever had – but I’m not just letting it go.”

Dr Stewart was unconscious for six days after falling and hitting her head at home in Keinton Mandeville, Somerset, before police found her in September last year.

She was in hospital for a month recovering from her injuries, which included dehydration and kidney failure, and had a bandage around her neck for days following a tracheotomy.

But towards the end of her stay, as her mind became more clear, Dr Stewart suddenly realised the necklace was no longer around her neck.

She later obtained x-rays taken when she was admitted which clearly show the chain around her neck. The pendant is not visible but Dr Stewart believes it had fallen to the side because she was laid on her back.

However, in later x-rays neither the chain or pendant are visible.

Dr Stewart, a childless spinster, says the necklace – which was valued at £50,000 last year – is her ”most treasured possession”.

It was given to her in South Africa in 1994 after secretly working with the black community during Apartheid as an industrial psychologist.

She added: ”I was in South Africa basically running a secret management school working with black people to develop their management potential.

”As far as the authorities knew, the people we were working with were training to be tea boys.  It was during the Apartheid.

”In 1994, just after Mandela was elected, this necklace was given to me from a group of about 60 people I had worked with.  It was very special to me.

”Since then I never ever took it off in 15 years, which is why I’m absolutely certain I had it on when I went into hospital.

I feel terrible about it because they saved my life – but they lost my necklace.  It was my most treasured possession.”

It was not until this April that the hospital released the images of Valerie’s x-rays to her.

She wrote to hospital administration asking for compensation for the loss but was denied.

In the rejection letter the hospital’s Chief Executive Gavin Boyle wrote: ”While I do not doubt that an item of jewellery has been lost, there is no evidence that the pendant that you describe was in your possession when you were admitted.

”I have acknowledged that there was a failure to follow policy regarding the listing of property however this is not an indication whether or not the pendant was present.

”As you point out, there is no evidence that the pendant was on the chain that can be seen in the x-ray.”

A spokeswoman for the hospital said: ”Yeovil District Hospital takes the loss of patient property very seriously and a full investigation has been launched with the aim of locating the missing necklace.”

The necklace is described as having a 3.5 carat yellow diamond pendant measuring 13mm by 8.6mm on an 18-inch gold chain.

There are other small white diamonds set into the neck of the pendant and the chain and settings are 18 carat gold.

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