THE doctor who failed to spot tragic Baby Peter's broken back two days before his death has had her misconduct hearing postponed to protect her right to a fair trial.

Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat, 53, fled Britain the day before she was due to face allegations of professional misconduct at a General Medical Council (GMC) over her contact with Peter Connelly who died in August 2007 following a catalogue of injuries.

She is also alleged to have applied for a job in Ireland without telling her prospective employers she had been suspended and under investigation.

After more than a week of legal argument, the panel yesterday adjourned the hearing indefinitely after it was told the 'suicidal' doctor had cut contact with her legal team for nearly a fortnight.

On the first day of the hearing the panel learned that the Saudi-born doctor was "unfit" to attend the hearing because her mental health "had broken down completely", according to one medical assessment.

It was revealed in a phonecall from her husband that she had left the country in a "suicidal" condition.

Lawyers for the GMC had applied for the case to proceed in her absence but the panel, chaired by Ralph Bergman, rejected the bid and ruled she should be allowed a chance to attend unless there were "exceptional circumstances" in order to defend herself properly.

In evidence during Baby Peter's trial, Dr Al Zayyat, a locum paediatrician at St Ann's Hopsital, admitted she had not carried out a full check-up on the 17-month-old because he was "miserable and cranky".

A postmortem examination found that when Baby P visted the clinic, he would almost certainly have had a broken back causing his legs to become floppy.

Peter suffered 50 injuries despite receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over the final eight months of his life.

His mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker, and his brother Jason Owen, were jailed at the Old Bailey last May for causing or allowing his death.