Harold Shipman

Summary

Harold Frederick Shipman (December 27, 1946 – January 13, 2004) was a British doctor, accused of killing more than 200 of his patients, corroborated only in 15 of them in the first instance and later raised to 218. He is known to be one of the worst serial killers in history.

In 2000, Shipman was sentenced to 1,000 years in prison with consecutive life sentences for the murders of 15 of his patients.

After the trial, the police continued to investigate the files of Dr. Shipman or as he was later nicknamed, Doctor Death, since it was estimated that Shipman could have killed 215 patients and be the author of more than 1500 homicides, of which 80% of them had women as victims. Also the ages of the victims were an enigma for the police, since the youngest person that Shipman had killed among the 15 corroborated cases, was Peter Lewis, 41 years old. The ages of the victims were also an enigma for the police, since the youngest person Shipman had killed among the 15 corroborated cases was 41-year-old Peter Lewis. Finally, the investigation was closed with the official number of 218 highly probable murders.

Many of Britain’s medical and health care laws were significantly changed as a direct and indirect result of Shipman’s crimes. He is the only British physician to have been convicted of murdering his patients, although other physicians have been acquitted of similar crimes or convicted of lesser charges.

Shipman died on January 13, 2004, one day before his 57th birthday, by hanging himself in his cell at Wakefield Prison.

Harold Frederick Shipman was born in Bestwood County Nottingham, England. He was the second of four children of Harold Frederick Shipman (May 12, 1914 – January 5, 1985), a truck driver, and Vera Brittan (December 23, 1919 – June 21, 1963).

His working-class parents were devout Methodists. Growing up, Shipman proved to be an excellent rugby player in youth leagues. He excelled as a runner and in his senior year at school, served as vice-captain of the track team. Shipman was particularly attached to his mother, who died of lung cancer when he was seventeen. In fact his mother’s death devolved in a manner very similar to what later became his own modus operandi: in the last stage of her illness, she received morphine administered at home by a physician.

On November 5, 1966, Shipman married Primrose May Oxtoby. They had four children.

Shipman studied medicine at Leeds Medical School and graduated in 1970. He began working at Pontefract General Infirmary in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, and in 1974 obtained his first post as a general practitioner at the Abraham Ormerod Medical Center in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. In 1975, he was caught forging pethidine prescriptions for his own use. He was fined £600 and forced to attend a drug rehabilitation clinic in York. He was a GP at Donneybrook Medical Centre in Hyde near Manchester in 1977.

Shipman continued to work as a physician in Hyde throughout the 1980s until 1993, when he founded his own clinic on Market Street, becoming a respected member of the community.

In March 1998, Dr. Linda Reynolds, who worked at Brooke Surgery in Hyde, just across the road from Shipman’s clinic, went to visit John Pollard, the district colonel for South Manchester, concerned about the high mortality rates among Shipman’s patients. In particular she noted the large number of cremations of former Shipman’s patients, mostly elderly women. The case was taken up by the police, who did not, in the first instance, have enough evidence to arrest Shipman and bring charges against him (in the subsequent investigation into Shipman’s crimes, they would blame the police for assigning inexperienced officers to the case). Between April 17, 1998, when the police dropped the investigation and Shipman’s eventual arrest, Shipman killed three more people, the last being Kathleen Grundy, an elderly woman from Hyde. On June 24, 1998, she died in her home. The last person to see her alive had been Dr. Shipman, who would later sign her death certificate.

Grundy’s daughter, attorney Angela Woodruff, was shocked when her mother’s lawyer, Brian Burgess, informed her that her mother’s last will had been to disinherit her, donating her entire estate, £386,000, to Harold Shipman. Woodruff reported the fact to the police. Grundy’s body was exhumed and examined and was found to have elevated levels of morphine. With this evidence, Shipman was finally arrested on September 7, 1998.

Following this event, the police began examining other deaths certified by Shipman and compiled a list of 15 deaths subject to investigation. In all 15 cases, morphine overdoses were involved and the death certificates were signed by Shipman.

Shipman’s trial, judged by Mr. Forbes, began on October 5, 1999. Shipman was on trial for the deaths of Marie West, Irene Turner, Lizzie Adams, Jean Lilley, Ivy Lomas, Jermaine Ankrah, Muriel Grimshaw, Marie Quinn, Kathleen Wagstaff, Bianka Pomfret, Naomi Nuttall, Pamela Hillier, Maureen Ward, Winifred Mellor, Joan Melia and Kathleen Grundy, which occurred between 1995 and 1998.

The jury deliberated 6 days and Shipman was convicted on January 31, 2000 for the murder of 15 of his patients, whom he killed with lethal injections of morphine. The judge sentenced him to 15 consecutive life sentences and recommended that he never be released. Two years later, then Government Secretary David Blunkett, accepted the sentence, just months before the British government lost the power to set minimum sentences for murderers.

In February 2002, Harold Shipman was struck off the National Register of British Doctors.

Shipman persistently denied his guilt and never made any statements about his actions. His defense tried, in vain, not to prosecute him for Mrs. Grundy’s murder, claiming that there were insufficient grounds to charge Shipman. His wife, Primrose, steadfastly maintained her husband’s innocence, even after his conviction.

Shipman is the only physician in the history of British medicine found guilty of murdering his patients. Dr. John Bodkin Adams was charged in 1957 with killing 160 of his patients over a ten-year period and “possibly was a precedent for Shipman,” but was acquitted.

Shipman hanged himself in his cell at Wakefield Prison at 06:20 on January 13, 2004, on the eve of his 57th birthday, and was pronounced dead at 08:10. A statement from the Prison Service indicated that Shipman had hung himself from the bars of his cell window using bed sheets. Some British tabloids expressed joy at his suicide and encouraged other serial killers to follow his example; The Sun was criticized for publishing the news on its front page in a celebratory tone, it read “Ship Ship Ship hooray!”

However, the families of the victims expressed disappointment, given that with Shipman’s death they would never get the answer as to why their patients were killed. Home Secretary David Blunkett noted that the celebration was tantalizing, saying, “You wake up and you get a call telling you Shipman has hanged himself and you think, is it too early to celebrate, and then you find out that everyone is very upset with him.”

The motive for Shipman’s suicide was never made clear, although he had reportedly told his parole officer that he was considering suicide to ensure his wife’s financial security after he was stripped of his National Health Service (NHS) pension. Primrose Shipman received a full NHS pension, which she would not have been entitled to had Shipman reached the age of 60. FBI profiler John Douglas has claimed that serial killers are obsessed with manipulation and control, and that committing suicide in prison in police custody is their final gesture of control.

It is not known when Shipman started killing patients or how many he killed. A report made in July 2002 into Shipman’s activities concluded that he had killed at least 215 patients between 1975 and 1998, during his time in Todmorden, West Yorkshire (1974-1975) and Hyde, Chesire (1977-1998). Judge Janet Smith said many other suspicious deaths could not be directly attributed to him. Most of the victims were elderly women in good health, according to reports filed after his trial.

In the sixth and final report, published on January 27, 2005, Smith revealed that he believed Shipman had killed three patients, and that he had serious suspicions about four more deaths, including that of a four-year-old girl, early in his medical career at Pontefract General Hospital (West Yorkshire). Smith concluded that the likely number of Shipman’s victims between 1971 and 1998 was 250. In total, 459 people died while under his care. It is uncertain how many of these were Shipman’s victims, as he was often the only person certifying deaths.

The Shipman investigation also included changes to the structure of the general medical council.

Six physicians who had signed off on cremations of Shipman’s victims were charged with malpractice by the general medical council, which stated that they should have noticed Shipman’s pattern of visits with his patients before they died. The doctors were eventually acquitted of guilt and charges. Shipman’s widow, Primrose Shipman, was subpoenaed to testify about two of the deaths during the inquest. She maintained her innocence and also her husband’s innocence.

In October 2005, a similar hearing was held against two doctors who worked at Tameside General Hospital in 1994, and who failed to detect that Shipman administered brutal doses of morphine to his patients.

In 2005 it was disclosed that Shipman may have stolen £10,000 worth of jewelry from his victims that had been found in his garage in 1998, and in March 2005, with Primrose Shipman pressing for their return, police wrote to the families of Shipman’s victims to identify them.

The unidentified items were turned over in May. In August the investigation ended up returning 66 pieces to Primrose Shipman while the remainder, 33 pieces that she confirmed were not hers, were auctioned off. The proceeds from the auction were donated to the Tameside Victim Support Foundation. The only piece that was identified as the estate of one of the affected families was a ring that was identified through photographic evidence.

A memorial garden to Shipman’s victims, called the Garden of Tranquility was opened in Hyde Park on July 30, 2005.

In early 2009, the families of Shipman’s victims were still seeking compensation for the loss of their relatives. In September 2009, it was announced that letters written by Shipman during his prison sentence were to be auctioned, but following complaints from victims’ families and the media, the letters were withdrawn from sale.

Harold and Fred (They Make Ladies Dead) were comic strips published by Viz in 2001, which also featured the English killer Fred West and were strongly contested by the families of the victims.

A television dramatization of the case, called Shipman, was broadcast in 2002, starring James Bolam as Harold Shipman.

In an episode of the television series Law & Order, called “D.A.W.N,” detectives Robert Goren and Alexandra Eames investigate a doctor suspected of being a serial killer. Many aspects of the episode reference Shipman, such as the character’s drug addiction in his youth and the number of deaths he was accused of. In the final part of the episode, when the suspect is confronted with the evidence, a man with a gray beard and glasses appears, much like Shipman. The episode also ironically includes a character named “Hal Shipman”.

The Fall and Jonathan King have made songs referring to Shipman. King’s song has been very controversial, as 6 months later the media would take it as a means of defense towards Shipman urging listeners not to blame someone for media influence.

External links

Sources

  1. Harold Shipman
  2. Harold Shipman
  3. ^ “Harold Shipman”. The Times. 18 September 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b c “The Shipman Inquiry”. theshipmaninquiry.org. Archived from the original on 13 April 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
  5. ^ Stovold, James. “The Case of Dr. John Bodkin Adams”. Strangerinblood.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2 September 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
  6. a b «The Shipman Inquiry”. The Shipman Inquiry.». Archivado desde el original el 13 de abril de 2010. Consultado el 4 de junio de 2010.
  7. «Stovold, James. “The Case of Dr. John Bodkin Adams”. Strangerinblood.co.uk.». Archivado desde el original el 2 de septiembre de 2015. Consultado el 4 de junio de 2010.
  8. «Oliver, Mark (13 enero de 2004). “Portrait of a necrophiliac”. The Guardian.». Consultado el 1 de abril de 2010.
  9. a b Kaplan, Robert M. (2009). . Medical Murder: Disturbing Cases of Doctors Who Kill. Allen & Unwin. p. pp. 59–60. ISBN 1-74175-610-3.
  10. «Sweet, Corinne (16 de enero de 2004). “He could do no wrong”. The Guardian. London.». Consultado el 4 de mayo de 2010.
  11. Janet Smith, Shipman Inquiry (2005): Shipman: the final report. Summary, Conclusion #27. Abgerufen 12. Oktober 2020
  12. Mark Oliver: Portrait of a necrophiliac. In: The Guardian. 13. Januar 2004, ISSN 0261-3077 (theguardian.com [abgerufen am 22. Juli 2017]).
  13. Kaplan, Robert M. (Robert Malcolm), 1950-: Medical murder : disturbing cases of doctors who kill. Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, N.S.W. 2009, ISBN 1-74175-610-3, S. 59, 60.
  14. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Churchill, Paola (29 de abril de 2020). «Doutor morte: a mente macabra do serial killer Harold Shipman». Aventuras na História. Consultado em 10 de junho de 2022
  15. a b c d e f g h i «Harold Shipman Biography, Cause of Death, & Facts». Enciclopédia Britânica (em inglês). Consultado em 10 de junho de 2022
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