Harold Shipman was a family doctor. He was also a prolific serial killer hiding behind his stethoscope to murder hundreds of patients.
Back in 1974 Dr Harold Shipman landed his first job as a GP.
In 1977, he became a GP at the Donneybrook House group practice in Hyde near Manchester before setting up his own practice in 1993.
He was respected, liked. Trusted.
On June 24, 1998, Kathleen Grundy was found dead on the sofa at her home.
Dr Shipman, her GP, was called. He signed her death certificate, recording ‘old age’ as the cause of death. Her daughter, Angela Woodruff, spoke to Shipman.
She discovered the GP had visited her mother that morning, and was the last person to see her alive. He said she’d been sick and probably suffered a heart attack.
Angela was shocked, she would have known if her mum had been ill. But Kathleen, though 81, was active, sprightly. Then it emerged that a will had been made, apparently by her mother, leaving £386,000 to Shipman.
Doubting the authenticity of the will, she went to police. An investigation was launched.
Kathleen Grundy’s body was exhumed. An examination found it contained traces of diamorphine – a drug used for pain control, usually administered by a healthcare professional.
And the will was found to be a forgery. On 7 September 1998, Shipman was arrested.
Other people started contacting police. They’d harboured concerns about the sudden deaths of relatives. More bodies were exhumed.
Detectives discovered Shipman had been administering lethal doses of diamorphine, signing patients’ death certificates and falsifying medical records to indicate they’d been in poor health.
Shipman was charged with murdering 15 patients – Marie West, Irene Turner, Lizzie Adams, Jean Lilley, Ivy Lomas, Muriel Grimshaw, Marie Quinn, Kathleen Wagstaff, Bianka Pomfret, Norah Nuttall, Pamela Hillier, Maureen Ward, Winifred Mellor, Joan Melia and Kathleen Grundy.
They’d all died between 1995 and 1998.
In February 2000 he was convicted on all charges and handed 15 life sentences.
Shipman was told he’d spend the rest of his life in jail.
Crimes that shocked the world
The world was left reeling. A trusted doctor had been murdering patients. And while he’d been convicted of 15-murders, police suspected many, perhaps hundreds more had died at his hands.
The Shipman Inquiry was launched.
In 2001 the inquiry reported Shipman had killed 215 patients, confirming him as Britain’s worst serial killer. The report stated there was a ‘real suspicion’ he’d murdered another 45, and a further 200 deaths were ‘highly suspicious’.
Meanwhile Shipman stayed silent. Never admitting his guilt.
On January 13 2004, Shipman, 57, was found hanging in his cell at Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire – taking his secrets with him.
In 2005, the final report by the Shipman Inquiry found the doctor had killed 15 patients in his early career, bringing his total confirmed murder toll to around 250.
It is suspected that he began murdering patients almost immediately after starting his first job as a GP. A relentless killing spree that would last 24-years.
At times it is possible that Shipman was averaging one murder a week, and at one point may have killed three victims in one day.
But in truth, we’ll never know how many patients Harold Shipman murdered and many families must be left wondering if their loved-one died at his hands.
Read more crimes that shocked the world here.