The coroner, who had previously rejected inquests into deaths of herpes-infected mothers has announced that he will now hold a hearing into the tragedy.

Kimberley Samuelson, 29 and Samantha Mulchay (32), gave birth to their babies by Caesarean section within weeks of each other in East Kent NHS Trust hospitals in 2018.

There are fears the same surgeon may have infected both mothers while performing the operations as HSV-1, one of two strains of the herpes virus, only very rarely leads to death in healthy people. 

A year later, their families received a note from Katrina Hepburn stating that neither case would be investigated. It acknowledged similarities, but did not say there was any connection. 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists called for an investigation last month, saying that’surgical infected appears to be a substantial possibility.

Following an investigation by BBC into the matter, Ms. Hepburn confirmed that an inquest would be conducted. Documents proving the genetic similarity of the virus which infected both women have been found.

The letter said: ‘I am now of the view that there is reason to suspect that the infection may have arisen as a consequence of a necessary medical procedure, namely the Caesarean section, and in those circumstances, I have a statutory duty to investigate further.’ 

Kimberley Sampson, 29, was a 'brilliant mummy' who was 'fun', 'loving', and had 'lots of friends', her mother Yvette Sampson said

Kimberley Sampson, 29, was a ‘brilliant mummy’ who was ‘fun’, ‘loving’, and had ‘lots of friends’, her mother Yvette Sampson said

Samantha Mulchay, pictured with her husband Ryan, went into labour four weeks ahead of her due date and went into the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, run by the same Trust as Ms Sampson's hospital, in July 2018

Samantha Mulchay, pictured with her husband Ryan, went into labour four weeks ahead of her due date and went into the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, run by the same Trust as Ms Sampson’s hospital, in July 2018

Pregnant women are more at risk for herpes due to their compromised immune systems.

Patients with herpes are at 80% chance of survival if they receive treatment.

According to some estimates, the percentage of people suffering from compromised immune systems can fall to 40%.  

Women who are pregnant have an increased risk of getting serious illness due to their immunocompromised status.  

High-risk individuals who are undergoing chemotherapy, or recovering after an organ transplant, can also be exposed.

People who do not receive treatment have a higher chance of developing serious illness. Survival rates are only 30%.

Serious herpes infections may lead to serious conditions such as encephalitis or meningitis. These are types of inflammation that affect the brain tissue in response.

A disseminated herpes infection is also possible. This refers to the spread of infection from one area (such as the mouth), to another part of the body. It can lead to organ failure. 

There are two types of herpes, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2.

HSV-1 is transmitted mostly by oral to-oral contact. This causes blisters known as “cold sores” but can also result in genital herpes.

HSV-2 is the only sexually transmissible infection that causes genital shingles.

Both forms of herpes can be lifelong and are manageable, but incurable.   

East Kent Hospitals Trust stated previously that it couldn’t identify the source of infection, and the surgeon didn’t have any history of the disease.

A pathologist who investigated the deaths believed the women had been infected before they were admitted to hospital.

Peter Greenhouse, the sexual health consultant for Peter Greenhouse stated that they were unlikely to have contracted it prior to being admitted.

His explanation was that it is most likely the infections were accidentally passed to the women by the surgeon during the C-section.

It is possible that the surgeon may have suffered from a herpes infection, which could have “directly seeded herpes into women’s abdomens.”  

Ms Sampson was a barber and lived with her daughter of three years in Whitstable. 

After having a healthy pregnancy, Ms Sampson was admitted to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate’s labour ward. She thought that everything would be okay and went to bed. However, she was not able to get her labor to progress quickly. Her mother kept telling her that the baby was still stuck.  

After her child was born, doctors performed a C section. Ms Sampson required a blood transfusion due to injuries she sustained during the surgery.  

Following two days of intense pain, she requested to be discharged along with her baby. She could not walk and was in great discomfort. 

She went home with her mother. But the pain continued to get worse. Yvette stated that she could scream from pain if even a little touch was made. 

Ms. Sampson, who was unconscious at the time of her accident, was transported by an ambulance back to the hospital. 

Drs suspected she suffered from bacterial sepsis. She was sent back into the maternity ward to be treated with antibiotics. However, her condition only got worse. 

After a string of surgeries, doctors struggled with the diagnosis and treatment. Eight days later, a consultant microbiologist recommended that she try Acyclovir, an antiviral medication used for treating herpes.

Ms. Sampson received a diagnosis of a severe case of herpes at Kings College Hospital. Her death occurred on May 22. 

Ms Mulchay went into labour four weeks ahead of her due date and attended the William Harvey Hospital (pictured) in Ashford, run by the same Trust as Ms Sampson's hospital

Ms Mulchay entered labor four weeks earlier than her due date.

Trust’s failure record 

The failure to provide maternity care has been criticized by the trust that was at the heart of both women’s deaths.

In June this year, the East Kent Hospitals Trust was fined £733,000 over the death of baby Harry Richford in 2017 after admitting failing to provide safe care and treatment. It was “wholly preventable,” according to a coroner.

Between 2011 and 2011, up to 15 infants died in trust hospitals. Ministers have requested an independent review.

An inspection last month revealed that the trust didn’t have sufficient maternity staff to protect newborns and mothers.

The Care Quality Commission stated that sometimes, numbers were so small that mothers had to be moved to other hospitals while they gave birth. Many midwives had to take care of two different women simultaneously. 

Six weeks later, Ms Mulchay was a nurse in a nursery, and she died from the same disease six weeks later. She lived only 20 miles away from Ms Sampson.

Ms Mulchay was in labor four weeks before her due date. She went to the William Harvey Hospital Ashford run by the same Trust that Ms Sampson’s in July 2018.  

Following 17 hours worth of painless contractions, the woman was tired and in pain. After worrying blood results, she was referred for C-section. 

Although Ms Mulchay delivered a healthy girl to her, doctors still kept an eye on the baby.

After three days of being swollen and high blood pressure, her condition began to decline. 

Doctors also though Ms Mulchay had bacterial sepsis, but, like Ms Sampson, antibiotics did not work.

Ms Mulchay spent four days in intensive medical care. A doctor recommended antiviral medication but the microbiology section advised that they continue to take antibiotics.  

Drs called London’s hospital to help. They tried to stabilize the patient but could not save it.  

A post-mortem revealed that Ms Mulchay died from multi-organ failure following a ‘disseminated herpes simplex type 1 infection’, meaning an overwhelming infection caused by HSV-1. 

It was determined that neither the mother nor her child were infected. 

The ‘primary infected’ was the first herpes infection they had. 

Public Health England provided documents to Ms Sampson’s family. They revealed two email chains that linked the East Kent Hospitals Trust and some NHS bodies as well as staff from PHE. A private laboratory called Micropathology was also included.  

These emails have been partially deleted by PHE so that names are not revealed. someone from the Trust reveals that the same two clinicians – a midwife and the surgeon who carried out the C-sections – had taken part in the deliveries of both babies. 

The families of both women expressed their gratitude to the BBC for the news. 

Yvette Sampson shared that they had hoped for the same thing since Kim passed away in 2018, but it has been a while coming. We’re hopeful we can finally find the answers to our questions – both for Kim’s kids and ourselves.

Samantha’s mother Nicky added: ‘How did Sam and Kim get the virus, and from where? It feels like you’re stuck. You can’t get the answers that you need.  

Dr Rebecca Martin, Chief Medical Officer for East Kent Hospitals, said: ‘Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of Kimberley and Samantha. 

“We will do our best to help these families and our thoughts and prayers are with Kimberley, Samantha and their families at this difficult time.”

On January 4, the hearing will officially open.