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Professor Linda Mulligan attending a case in Westmeath last year. PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo
Human Remains

State Pathologist dealt with 417 cases last year (including 8 cases of ancient human bones)

The office’s annual report was released today.

THE OFFICE OF the State Pathologist (OSP) dealt with 417 cases last year, a significant rise on the year before.

The OSP’s annual report for 2022 shows that of the 417 cases dealt with, the majority (213) were State forensics cases, in which the office is requested to examine remains at the direction of the State.

Of these 213, the pathologist attended the scene of the death for 26 cases.  

The role of the OSP is to provide independent expert advice on matters relating to forensic pathology and perform post-mortem examinations (PMEs) in criminal, suspicious or unusual deaths. It has people on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Pathologists with the OSP also often have to give evidence in coronial, criminal or civil courts.

The current Chief State Pathologist is Professor Linda Mulligan, who was appointed in 2021. She works with a team of five other women.

Last year year was significantly busier for the OSP than previous years. In the 2021, 327 cases were dealt with, while in 2020 345 cases were dealt with (the figure was 286 in 2018).

As well as the 213 state forensic cases, the OSP carried out 172 adult non-suspicious post mortem examinations. There were 28 cases of skeleton remains.

These included:

  • 16 cases of animal bones
  • 11 human bones 
  • one case that turned out to be wood

A forensic anthropologist was involved in all of the 11 cases of human bones. Of these, eight were found to be ancient and were referred to the National Museum of Ireland. Of the three remaining cases, one was identified as modern, one is awaiting carbon dating and the third is awaiting DNA analysis.

The annual report also highlights the significant amount of travel that OSP officials undertake in the course of the year. The OSP is based at the former Whitehall Garda Station in Dublin, but does not have its own mortuary facility to allow for the centralisation of the forensic service.

This means that pathologists must travel to different HSE-run mortuaries around the country in order to carry out State forensics cases, which are usually nearest to the area where the body was discovered.

A total of 564 hours were spent on the travelling to cases last year, according to the annual report. This equates to 80 working days or about 16 working weeks.

In a statement today, Justice Minister Helen McEntee thanked the OSP for the work they carried out last year.

“I would like to thank the Chief State Pathologist, Professor Linda Mulligan, her team of forensic pathologists, and the wider office and laboratory team, for their unwavering commitment and professionalism in the provision of an oftentimes difficult and complex service for deceased people and bereaved loved ones,” she said.

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