How the final King’s Cross fire victim
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
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.
30 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
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.