How the final King’s Cross fire victim was identified

16 years of detective work and one surgical clip helped BTP detectives discover the identity of the body of Alexander Fallon: the last King's Cross fire victim to be identified.

Alexander Fallon, victim of the King's Cross fire of 1987

On 18 November 1987, a fire ripped through the Upper Booking Hall at King’s Cross Underground station. 31 people died as a result; an inquest returned verdicts of Accidental Death.

Head reconstruction of Body 115, the final victim of the 1987 King's Cross fire30 of the dead had been positively identified by the time the Metropolitan Police closed their operation to identify the dead and passed all papers to BTP in early 1988. The only body left to be identified was Body 115, who remained a mystery, even after forensic odontologists Bernard Sims and Richard Neave from Manchester University had prepared a reconstruction of the face from his skull (right).

Superintendent John Hennigan and DS Ray Turner spent many years following up hundreds of enquiries. Inspector Ian Wilkinson joined the inquiry in the latter stages, liaising closely with Mr Fallon’s family in Scotland.

Around the time of the 10th anniversary in 1997, the attention of officers began to focus on a missing man named Alexander Fallon.

Mr Fallon had moved to London after the death of his wife in 1974. He was discounted as a possible match for Body 115 as his family estimated his height at 5’ 6”, whereas Body 115 was around 5’ 2”. He also didn’t fit the age profile, which the post mortem had fixed at between 40 and 60.

However, there were partial fingerprints from two fingers and police made extensive enquiries with dentists throughout Britain about the man’s dentures – he had a full set.

Body 115 also showed signs of heart and lung disease, but the most crucial element was a clip found in the brain, used in a right frontal/temporal craniotomy. The clip used had been preserved and was identified as a Sugita No. 5 clip manufactured in Japan between 1977 and 1982.

Detective Chief Superintendent Nick Bracken said at the time of the identification: “We found that no more than 300 of these clips would have been imported into the UK.

“With about a third of craniotomies being carried out on the left hand side, that would leave only 200 on the right. Only 100 would appear on the right side of a male.”

Further investigation into Mr Fallon’s history found that he had collapsed in the street in 1980 and was subsequently treated for an aneurism in the Royal London Hospital. By recovering Mr Fallon’s medical records, detectives were able to find the surgeon who carried out the operation. The surgeon confirmed that he would have used a Sugita clip: the same type of clip found in Body 115.

Using new techniques Professor Peter Vanezis was able to compare the marks of the craniotomy against the scars visible in photographs of Mr Fallon. Richard Neave compared his original workings with the photographs, finding no inconsistencies, and Professor Chris Milroy reviewed all known post and ante mortem information on Body 115 and found them to be the same.