Lives of the fellows

Walter Lindesay Neustatter

b.7 December 1903 d.6 July 1978
BSc(1924) MRCS LRCP(1929) MB BS Lond(1931) MRCP(1932) MD(1941) FRCP(1967) FRCPsych(1972)

Walter Lindesay Neustatter was born in Munich, the son of a German ophthalmic surgeon, and an Australian mother. His father and mother found their lives together to be incompatible and they were divorced early in Lindesay’s life (he was known to many of his friends by his second name and to some as Wally). His father then emigrated to the USA and at the age of four Lindesay came with his mother to England. She was a highly intelligent, progressive young woman who met her second husband when they were together at King Alfred’s School, Hampstead. Controversial characters as they were,they together founded an experimental co-educational boarding school in Suffolk, which became the world famous Summerhill School. His mother was an ardent supporter of women’s suffrage, and with fellow suffragettes was on occasion imprisoned in HM Prison, Holloway, London. Lindesay was brought up in an erudite radical milieu which influenced his outlook on life and may to some extent have fostered in him, as he grew up, an interest in psychology.

He was educated from 1913 to 1921 at King Alfred’s School, Hampstead, for the next three years at London University and then at University College Hospital Medical School, qualifying as a doctor in 1929. At school he excelled in both work and games. At University College London, he took a BSc degree in psychology and obtained a first class honours degree in 1924. He was an all round sportsman, keen in particular on fives, tennis and cricket. He was captain of the University fives team and later president of the London University fives club. Whilst at UCH he was captain of the cricket club and he always retained a special interest in this sport, duly becoming a member of the MCC. One of his favourite hobbies was to watch first class cricket (and especially test matches) at Lords. It is noteworthy that throughout his student days he resided with his aunt, who was an Australian and a prominent author (nom de plume Henry Handel Richardson).

At University College Hospital he held the posts of house physician in medicine and neurology in 1929 and in paediatrics in 1930. On leaving UCH he became psychotherapist to the Maudsley (1931 -1936) and then Rockefeller and York Trust research assistant at Guy’s Hospital (1936-1939). In 1938 he was appointed physician in psychological medicine at Queen Mary’s Hospital for the East End, and in 1948 to a similar post at the Royal Northern Hospital, London, positions which he retained until his retirement from the National Health Service.

During the war (1939 — 1946) he served in the Emergency Medical Service from 1939 to 1941, then in the Army with the rank of major (1941 -1946), being promoted to acting lieutenant colonel during his time in the Middle East.

In 1948 he was appointed ‘Advisor in Psychiatry’ to the LCC school health service, and in 1950 he became consultant psychiatrist to St Ebbea’s Hospital, transferring, when that hospital was closed, to Horton Hospital in 1962.

Neustatter was a prolific writer and was author of the following books: Modern Psychiatry in Practice (Churchill, 1936 and 1946); The Mind of the Murderer (C Johnson 1956); Psychological Disorder and Crime (C Johnson 1957) and Psychiatry in Medical Practice (Staples 1958). In 1960 he wrote an article on ‘Diminished Responsibility and Murder’ in the Medico-Legal Journal and in 1965 one on ‘The State of Mind in Murder’ for the Lancet.

Whereas his interests in psychiatry were always broad and well balanced, in later years he devoted progressively more of his time to forensic psychiatric work. Because his reports were intelligently compiled in a manner that was readily comprehensible to members of the legal profession, his opinion was often sought, and he frequently gave expert evidence in criminal proceedings, especially those concerned with crimes of violence. He was a member of the Medico-Legal Society for many years and its vice-president in 1964, and he was a founder member of the British Academy of Forensic Sciences. He regularly attended the meetings of these societies until his terminal illness, and seldom failed to make an observation or raise a query when the subject under discussion was within his field of interest. His enthusiasm in this sphere was indicated by his membership of the Howard League for Penal Reform and his personal concern with the abortion and homosexual laws. The high reputation in which he was held in the Courts is indicated by the number of salient homicidal cases in which he gave evidence. Amongst others whom he examined was Ian Brady, the notorious Moors murderer.

Neustatter was a man of honour and dedication, but the exact calibre of his personality was not easy to assess, since although he had a pleasant, friendly disposition that ensured a good rapport with patients and colleagues alike, one gained the impression that in thought and meditation he was introverted and lonely. During his service in the Emergency Medical Service he met Mary Clutton-Brock, who was at that time an ambulance driver with the American Ambulance Corps and whom he married in 1941. After the war they purchased a house in Ewell where their two children were born, Patrick (a medical practitioner) and Angela (a journalist). He was devoted to his wife and perhaps largely dependent on her. Her death in 1969 was a stunning blow to him, which affected him profoundly. Always prone to be somewhat eccentric, he became much more so in his attitudes, beliefs and sartorial appearance. He died in July 1978 following a long and distressing illness.

DAS Blair

[Brit.med.J., 1979, 2, 278]

(Volume VII, page 426)

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