Former State pathologist Prof John Harbison dies

Harbison involved in many high-profile cases over several decades

The late Prof John Harbison. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

The former State pathologist Prof John Harbison has died.

In his 80s, he died peacefully on Friday, according to a death notice posted online.

Prof Harbison stopped doing post mortems in 2003 after nearly 30 years’ service as State pathologist.

He was involved in many high-profile cases including the Kerry babies case, the Sophie Toscan du Plantier case and the investigation into the Grangegorman killings.


The Dublin-born doctor in 1974 became the State’s first forensic pathologist.

The son of a doctor who held various positions as county and city medical officer, Prof Harbison was born in the Howth area of north Co Dublin. He graduated in medicine from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1960, where he lectured in medical jurisprudence for many years.

In 1991, he was appointed professor of forensic medicine and toxicology at the Royal College of Surgeons. As State pathologist he carried out some 100 post-mortems a year.

He is survived by his wife Kathleen, children Isobel and Austin, grandchildren Jack and Edith, brother Peter, son-in-law Conor, extended family and friends.

In line with government guidelines on public gatherings, his funeral service on Monday next will remain private for family and close friends only.