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Baby Peter doctor 'too suicidal' for hearing

A doctor accused of failing to spot that Baby Peter had a broken back and was being abused did not appear before a disciplinary hearing in London yesterday.

Sabah Al-Zayyat, a locum paediatrician, was said to be suicidal and unfit to defend herself against charges of serious professional misconduct.

The General Medical Council (GMC) was told that she had left the country.

The Saudi-born doctor saw 17-month-old Peter Connelly at St Ann's Hospital in Haringey, north London, only two days before his death in August 2007.

She was due to appear in front of a fitness to practise panel yesterday, accused of failing to carry out an "adequate examination" of the toddler, investigating his injuries or admitting him to hospital.

However, the hearing was adjourned yesterday for experts to review psychiatric reports on the doctor's mental health.

Rebecca Poulet, for the GMC, said that Dr Al-Zayyat was assessed by a psychiatrist on Friday afternoon but had since left Britain for an unknown destination.

"The pressure on her has been such that her mental health has broken down completely and the possibility of suicide is a real one," Mrs Poulet told the hearing.

If found guilty of serious professional misconduct, Dr Al-Zayyat could be struck off the medical register and banned from working in Britain.

The fitness to practise panel was adjourned until tomorrow. Baby Peter's mother and two men have been jailed for their part in his death.

The child, who died at his London home, had received 60 visits from social services and health workers. All failed to spot that he was being abused.

A post-mortem examination found that he had suffered multiple injuries.