WHEN Bundaberg Hospital was rocked by a series of operations allegedly botched by head surgeon Jayant Patel - and deaths that resulted from them - the NewsMail was there to cover the story and follow it through to its bitter end.

We were there to bring you the reports from colleagues of surgeries that were too dangerous, the commission of inquiry investigating the claims, and we were there when Patel was finally arrested in 2008.

We shared the heartbreaking stories of patients whose lives had changed forever, and of the families whose lives were likewise rocked by the loss of their loved ones.

We covered the lengthy trial from start to finish, culminating in his conviction in 2010 on manslaughter and grievous bodily harm charges.

But there was to be more heartbreak as Patel appealed the charges and eventually took his bid to the High Court, which quashed his convictions and granted a new trial.

In 2013, Patel was found not guilty of manslaughter and later pleaded guilty to four separate fraud charges. His reputation was in tatters but he left Australia a free man.

Former editor Christina Ongley, who oversaw the newspaper's coverage through most of the trial stages, said it had been an incredibly draining process for the people involved with the case.

"Even though Dr Patel was eventually acquitted of the most serious charges, it left hospital administrators with an enormous challenge of rebuilding respect within the community," she said.

"There were people who would never get over what happened, and others who just wanted to move on.

"But without a doubt, it was one of the biggest and longest-running stories in Bundaberg's recent history."

The NewsMail is always there to bring you the breaking stories and relevant issues. Follow our 12-part We Were There series online to watch some video slideshows that look back on the stories that shaped us.

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