Roger Whittaker: Tributes paid after death of Yorkshire coroner who helped to reduce baby deaths and oversaw 'Crossbow Cannibal' inquest

Tributes have been paid following the death of a long-serving Bradford coroner credited with helping to reduce the number of cot deaths among babies in the city.

Roger Whittaker, who also enjoyed a long stint as Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, oversaw the inquest into one of the victims of the ‘Crossbow Cannibal’ – ruling that the woman had been killed unlawfully – during his long legal career.

His death was announced on Monday by the Ermysted’s Old Boys Society. Mr Whittaker attended the Skipton grammar school in the 1950s and later served as chair of governors. The tribute read: “We are incredibly sad to let you know that Roger Whittaker passed away on Thursday evening. As well as being an Old Boy (1951-59) and captain of rugby he served our school as chair of governors for 25 years, playing a pivotal role in the school's history during his time at the helm. We will forever be greatful for all he did for Ermysted's. We will share funeral details when we have them. Our thoughts are with Roger's family and friends at this sad time.”

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After retiring in 2011, Mr Whittaker estimated that he had presided over 7,500 inquests covering Calderdale, Bradford and Huddersfield. He was married to Elizabeth and has four children. The couple lived in Ilkley.

Roger Whittaker prepares to retire n 2011Roger Whittaker prepares to retire n 2011
Roger Whittaker prepares to retire n 2011

During his tenure, he raised concerns about the number of ‘avoidable’ baby deaths linked to co-sleeping, leading to changes in medical advice. In 2011, he had to get special government permission to hold an inquest for Crossbow Cannibal victim Susan Rushworth, 43, despite her body never being found. She and two other women were murdered in Bradford in 2009-10 by postgraduate student Stephen Griffiths. He recorded a verdict of unlawful killing based on forensic evidence recovered from the killer’s flat.

Before his appointment to the coronial service in 1994, Mr Whittaker was a solicitor in Keighley. His interests included walking in the Yorkshire Dales and classic cars, and he was known for his dapper fashion sense in the courtroom. He was described as having ‘a punctilious grandeur redolent of a bygone age’.