Darren Sutherland: found dead in his London flat last September

THE pathologist who raised concerns over a "possible" third-party involvement in the apparent suicide of boxer Darren Sutherland had previously appeared as a crucial defence witness for murder-accused Wayne O'Donoghue.

Northern Ireland pathologist Professor Jack Crane reviewed the postmortem of Sutherland – who was discovered dead in his London flat last September – and found it to be "wholly inadequate".

Sutherland's family are said to be "devastated" by the findings and by the media reports of a leaked letter in which the concerns were raised.

Plans are underway to exhume the boxer's remains and review his cause of death. Sources have indicated the procedure will be carried out in secrecy to avoid unwanted attention.

Crane gave evidence in 2005 on behalf of Corkman Wayne O'Donoghue, who was charged with murdering his 11-year-old neighbour Robert Holohan.

Crane's evidence was crucial in the trial, contradicting the opinions of Irish state pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy that Holohan had died of manual strangulation.

He told the jury he believed it was the first of two acts, pressure applied through a headlock, that led to his death. O'Donoghue was convicted of the lesser crime of manslaughter.

Crane is now back in the spotlight after raising questions about the circumstances surrounding the death of Olympic bronze medalist Sutherland and the standard of his post mortem.

While there is no proof at this stage of any foul play in Sutherland's death, the pathologist said the condition in which his body was found did raise certain questions.

"I am presuming that this case is being dealt with as self-suspension, ie hanging by the deceased's own hand but the presence of a ligature, even if only loosely tied around the wrists, raises some concerns about the possibility of involvement of a third party," he wrote.

Sutherland's inquest has yet to take place and a hearing is due in November to resolve a number of outstanding legal considerations.

The Sunday Tribune revealed earlier this year that the boxer's family would be seeking a ruling of misadventure as opposed to suicide.

Sutherland's former coach Frank Delaney, who has severed all ties with the family, said that if there was a third party involved "it makes it even worse".

"It has no bearing on my life anymore. That is not to be rude; it's something that happened and it's over with," he said from his London home.

Crane's report into Sutherland's death, which was requested by the family, criticised its lack of detail on marks or injuries to the body.

The family's Derry-based solicitor Des Doherty said: "In view of the contents of Professor Crane's report and his concerns about the possibility of the involvement of a third party in Darren's death we were left with no option other than to advise our clients to consider exhumation."