BY EMMA COWING
For more than 35 years Krishna Singh hid in plain sight, cloaked in the respectability of his role as a family GP.
He was a pillar of the community, a grandfather, and so well-regarded within the medical profession he was awarded an MBE for his services.
Yet behind the kindly façade lay a cold-hearted predator who used his position to molest dozens of female patients over a period of decades.
Now 72 years old, a frail, diminished figure in a face mask as he arrived at court each morning, father-of-three Singh is facing years in jail after being found guilty of sex crimes against 48 patients. And yet his prison time is unlikely to stretch as long as his reign of terror behind the red brick walls of Coatbridge Health Centre, where he became a senior partner.
Over the past six weeks, woman after woman stepped into the witness box at Glasgow’s High Court with chilling accounts of a doctor who abused his position in order to interfere with female patients.
Dr Singh was a senior partner at Coatbridge Medical Centre, pictured, in Lanarkshire where his wife served as practice manager
The picture that emerged was of a man who was as indiscriminate as he was callous with his victims, who included pregnant women, a rape victim, and teenage children. That he insisted on pleading not guilty, thus forcing them to relive their harrowing experiences all over again in court, only served to show how little empathy he felt for his victims.
Singh qualified as a doctor at Patna University in his native India in 1974. Not long afterwards he arrived in the UK and registered with the General Medical Council in 1976.
In the early 1980s he joined Coatbridge Health Centre, which is housed today in a low, modern building that looks out over an Asda car park.
For years, Singh was able to get away with his crimes because many women felt they would not be heard, not only because Singh was a senior partner at the surgery, but because his wife was the practice manager.
Instead, patients did what they could to avoid him. One woman told the court she tried to make her medication last longer to delay going back. Others took friends or relatives along to appointments.
Even that did not always work: one man told the court he had threatened to assault Singh after the doctor groped his pregnant wife’s breasts in front of him.
Meanwhile, Singh’s dependable local reputation led to him being appointed a police casualty surgeon between 2005 and 2010, which involved him examining victims of sexual violence. Here, too, he committed crimes.
Among them was a 50 year-old hospital worker who was examined by Singh at Motherwell police station in March 2008 after she reported being raped.
The woman was left shocked after the GP quizzed her on whether sex was consensual.
She told jurors: ‘He asked me if I had been wearing a skirt and I said I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He asked how low my top was and if my cleavage was showing.
‘He was asking if I was being provocative…he said: “So, you are not a good time girl”.’ He then went on to molest her.
Another ex-patient told the court how Singh would ‘press and prod’ around her pant line even if it was a check-up on a sore throat. She was initially a teenager when going to see the GP and said it was a ‘running joke’ between friends what Singh was like.
But, asked now what she thought, the 39-year-old mother stated: ‘If that was my daughter, I would be sitting in the dock on a murder charge. No professional should act like that.’
It wasn’t until 2018 that one woman, inspired by the ‘Me Too’ movement that burgeoned in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal – when dozens of women came forward accusing the Hollywood mogul of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse over a period of at least 30 years – made the brave decision to come forward.
In a letter of complaint to NHS Lanarkshire she claimed that Singh had molested her in 2012.
‘Inappropriate behaviour took place on a couple of occasions when I required medical attention,’ she wrote. ‘I was asked if I was having sex with my boyfriend and he told me not to.’
Her complaint triggered a huge investigation – named Operation Rule – involving Police Scotland, with letters sent to all patients asking if they could help. They were inundated with responses.
For those who knew the grand-father, there is shock and disbelief that such a stalwart of the community could be behind such heinous crimes.
One man who had professional dealings with Singh said yesterday he was ‘well-regarded’ in his field. ‘This has come as a bit of a shock because I’ve not heard a thing about this, even from people who worked with him,’ he told the Mail. ‘Nobody ever had a bad word to say about him.
‘I knew people who worked with him at the practice and there were Chinese whispers about a lot of things, but nothing about this.
‘I saw him just a few days ago walking down the road, he put his hand up to wave. He was looking particularly frail. It’s quite unusual to see him out and about.’
Set back from a busy main road, Singh’s home is an imposing if slightly dilapidated double fronted villa. Yesterday there were normal signs of domesticity, a pair of trainers by the door and some paint splattered garden gloves. But the downstairs curtains had been tightly drawn and elsewhere, another window was covered up with cardboard and carrier bags.
Neighbours described Dr Singh as ‘quiet’ and ‘very private’.
News of his crimes were met with a great sense of shock.
‘I was really surprised when I heard. It was very unexpected,’ said one woman.
There was also concern over who may have fallen victim.
She added: ‘I had a delivery driver here asking me about it the other day because he knew someone who was a patient.’
In this close, tight-knit community, Singh has left a long trail of victims in his wake. And as he awaits sentencing, there will be those asking how one man could have continued to abuse the very patients he was meant to care for, for so long.
Additional reporting by Bethan Sexton