Training ground for a life of murder

Harold Shipman trained to be a doctor in Yorkshire but at the same time he also began experimenting with the techniques which made him Britain's biggest mass killer. Health Correspondent Mike Waites reports.

THE murderous career of Harold Shipman is already horrifying enough but the latest report into his serial killing makes for chilling reading.

Here was a doctor fresh from medical school in Leeds who, barely six months after becoming fully qualified, began murdering his patients.

In all, 250 people died at his hands, over more than a quarter of a century.

All doctors must complete a period of formal training, and Shipman quickly won the confidence of many of the staff at Pontefract General Infirmary.

He made himself indispensable, often working long hours well into the evening, when other doctors, especially those with a young family, might not have been expected to be on the wards.

He exuded confidence and was regarded by colleagues as "hardworking, reliable, dedicated and competent".

He won promotion for his work with children, and was effectively running medical wards within two years.

A handful of staff regarded him as "strange, sinister and odd" but they remained in the minority.

The favourable impression he worked so hard to achieve masked a dark secret.

Analysis carried out for the Shipman Inquiry found he was involved in an abnormally high number of deaths, issuing 76 death certificates during one six-month stint on the medical wards at the infirmary in 1972 – more than any other doctor at the hospital over a five-year period.

Sandra Whitehead, who was a trainee nurse at the time and raised suspicions about Shipman's activities, said she recalled there were high numbers of deaths on the medical wards.

On one day Shipman certified four deaths, on another three more.

In a higher proportion of cases than for other doctors, patients died suddenly. In a staggering 53 per cent of cases he was there at the point of death, compared to just 7.3 per cent of cases for other doctors.

Inquiry chairman Dame Janet Smith, who has investigated all his deaths, concludes: "Even if he was not killing his patients, it might at least suggest an abnormal interest in death."

The late hours he kept were perfect if he wanted to be alone with patients. There were few staff around, and visitors left at 8pm.

Half of Shipman's patients died between 6pm and midnight instead of being spread throughout the day.

In later years, Shipman killed his patients mainly in the afternoon, when he would visit them as a GP at home.

Again in a sinister foretaste of what was to happen later, deaths that should have been reported to the coroner were not, and there were a number of irregularities in entries in patient notes.

Tight control in a hospital of controlled drugs made it difficult to use morphine – Shipman's preferred method of killing in later years – but he appeared happy to test out other drugs which could have equally lethal effects.

Several cases were found of patients given non-fatal overdoses as Shipman seemed reckless to the effect of drugs he was prescribing.

Dame Janet said: "There is some evidence that he liked to 'test the boundaries' of certain forms of treatment.

"I think that he was fascinated by drugs and liked to experiment with them."

All but five of the 24 deaths which raise suspicion at Pontefract occurred between March and May 1972.

His activities only came to a halt when concerns were raised about the case of a patient who died on June 1, 1972, shortly after he was known to have carried out an injection.

Dame Janet said: "It seems to me quite likely that Shipman was shocked and worried by the fact that he was known to have been associated with a sudden death.

"Later in life, whenever Shipman had narrowly escaped detection, he gave up unlawful killing for a while."

She said it was likely Shipman had become addicted to the opiate pethidine, while at the hospital.

He was dependent on the drug by the time he began work as a GP in Todmorden.

Dame Janet concludes he killed three patients at Pontefract.

Four more cases raised "serious cause for suspicion" and a further 17 raised "some cause for suspicion".

In most cases, Shipman was hastening the deaths of patients who would have died relatively soon.

He is likely to have killed between 10 and 15 patients there.

"He seemed to think that he always knew when the time to die had come. It is clear that in later year he killed healthy patients too but it 'makes sense' that he would have started with the very sick," she said.

Dame Janet said it was possible that in these early days Shipman was driven by an interest in drugs, killing patients through their reckless administration rather than with the "positive calculated intention to kill which I am satisfied was present later in his career".

What was certain was that sinister patterns created at Pontefract were replicated when Shipman became an established killer.

Sacked – but

not struck off

UNTIL yesterday Shipman's first victim was believed to be Eva Lyons while he was working at the Abraham Ormerod Medical Practice in Todmorden.

She was killed the day before her 71st birthday in March 1975.

The young doctor suffered blackouts and colleagues discovered he was addicted to the painkiller pethidine.

In 1977 he was fired from the surgery.

However he was not struck off and got a job as a GP in Hyde in Manchester. By the time he was arrested in 1998 he had killed more than 200 of his patients. Shipman's crimes first came to

light when he made a clumsy attempt to

forge the 386,000 will of one of his victims, 81-year-old Kathleen Grundy.

Her daughter Angela Woodruff became suspicious after her mother's death and alerted police. In January 2000 he was convicted of 15 counts of murder and sentenced to life.

Police said they are actually investigating 175 deaths.

Two years later

the first phase of the

Shipman inquiry concluded the Hyde GP killed at least 215 of his patients.

The family who will never know the truth

Robert Sutcliffe

FOR Jon Sharpe, a 63-year-old retired engineer from West Yorkshire, Dame Janet Smith's indeterminate conclusions about his grandmother left him in "the worst of worlds".

For the rest of his life he will be haunted by the knowledge that Shipman might have killed sprightly 82-year-old Kate Sharpe in March 1972.

On Wednesday at his Featherstone home, Mr Sharpe said his gut feeling was that his grandmother, a deeply religious woman, had not been involved in the Shipman case.

Yesterday, however, following the publication of Dame Janet's report, he was not so sure.

He said: "I'm a lot closer to feeling that she might have been involved. It's quite frightening. I had a terrible night's sleep and went out running at 6.30am to get away from it all."

His grandmother's death during Shipman's stint at Pontefract General Infirmary.

He said: "It was in his window of opportunity, spot on it. But I don't think there's evidence either way. My biggest regret is that there's not a lot more you can do after all this time."

Recalling his grandmother's visit to the hospital in 1972 after suffering chest pains he said although his family had been shocked at her sudden death less than a week later, no one had suspected anything.

"I remember her going into hospital with asthmatic thrombosis, which was very common at the time. It was a real shock when she died but I know my father didn't think there was anything strange about her death.

"We did have discussions about how quickly she had gone. When she went into hospital I fully expected her to come out.

"It must never happen again. I am really pleased that the Government has seen that the General Medical Council wants some form of regulation –250 people were killed and no one queried it. It's ridiculous.

"The medical profession and the GMC must change and can no longer be self-regulating. There were so many references to people who pointed the finger at Shipman and no one took any notice."

Report into suicide in prison cell still to be published

Andrew Vine

ONLY one official report about Harold Shipman remains to be published – the inquiry into his death in Wakefield Prison.

Prison and Probation Service Ombudsman Stephen Shaw is expected to publish his report at the end of the inquest into Shipman's death, which takes place in April.

Shipman was found hanged in his cell – D3-36 on D Wing – on January 13 last year, the day before his 58th birthday. A ligature made from bedding was around his neck and tied to the bars of his cell window. He was found during a routine check on his cell at 6.20am.

Mr Shaw began his inquiry later that day. As part of

his investigation, he questioned prison officers on duty

in the hours before

Shipman was found, and

also scrutinised the

decision to take him off suicide watch.

West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff will hold an inquest into the death before a jury at Leeds Crown Court. The hearing will begin on April 11, and is expected to last at least two weeks.

Shipman's remains are believed to be held in long-term frozen storage at Sheffield's Medico Legal Centre.

His family are understood to have had tests carried out which they believe may show that he was murdered.

In particular, they are questioning a fracture on the right side of Shipman's neck, which they claim is not consistent with being caused by the knot of the ligature.

A month before Shipman died, privileges had been withdrawn from him as a punishment for "difficult" behaviour. This included being rude to staff and refusing to co-operate with psychologists.

The privileges had been restored shortly before his death.

The night before his death, Shipman had a six-minute telephone conversation with his wife, Primrose.

The deaths that were investigated

Bailey, Charles Lyndon, 46, died 05/05/71: Natural death

Barratt, Alfred, 74, died 29/06/72: Natural death

Bastow, Louis, 72, died 22/05/72: Cause for significant suspicion

Bateman, Margery, 55, died 25/08/70: Natural death

Beardsmore, Lily Emma, 50, died 27/03/72: Insufficient evidence

Bedford, Leonard, 60, died 03/02/72: Insufficient evidence

Belfield, Dean Alan, 5 days, died 07/01/72: Natural death

Binns, Mary Jane, 77, died 20/04/72: Insufficient evidence

Bowers, Arthur, 76, died 08/11/70: Natural death

Brewster, John, 84, died 28/04/72: Unlawful killing

Burley, Ruth, 85, died 31/12/70: Insufficient evidence

Carr, Rebecca, 72, died 05/03/72: Insufficient evidence

Cartwright, Ann, 88, died 27/05/72: Insufficient evidence

Cawthorn, Ada, 92, died 08/05/71: Natural death

Chester, Stuart Charles, 2 weeks, died 06/03/73: Natural death

Chew, David Edward, 78 days, died 10/02/71: Natural death

Cooling, Phyllis, 58, died 01/06/72: Cause for some suspicion

Cooper, James, 54, died 06/06/72: Natural death

Cromack, Ada, 83, died 21/07/72: Insufficient evidence

Cullumbine, Thomas, 54, died 12/04/72: Unlawful killing

Davidson, Agnes, 74, died 14/04/72: Cause for some suspicion

Deyes, Norman, 71, died 28/05/72: Cause for some suspicion

Dinning, Dilys, 52, died 08/05/71: Natural death

Doody, Norah Clarke, 69, died 10/03/71: Natural death

Draper, Phyllis, 64, died 24/01/74: Insufficient evidence

Dunning, Violet, 67, died 02/12/72: Natural death

Dunnington, Ian Michael, 10, died 24/02/71: Natural death

Edgar, William, 60, died 16/07/72: Natural death

Ellis, John, 72, died 15/08/70: Natural death

Evans, John Joseph, 60, died 31/07/72: Natural death

Farrar, Gertrude, 77, died 12/07/72: Natural death

Fewster, John, 73, died 27/05/72: Insufficient evidence

Fisher, George, 68, died 16/04/72: Cause for some suspicion

Follon, Ethel, 60, died 27/03/71: Cause for some suspicion

Foxton, Annie Eliza, 83, died 11/03/71: Insufficient evidence

Garfitt, Susan, 4, died 11/10/72: Cause for significant suspicion

Garnham, Henry William, 71, died 04/03/72: Natural death

Gibbons, Alice, 77, died 02/07/72: Natural death

Goodliffe, Tom, 62, died 27/01/72: Natural death

Green, Joseph, 47, died 20/04/72: Cause for some suspicion

Griffiths, Florence May, 70, died 17/06/71: Natural death

Griffiths, Thomas, 64, died 04/03/71: Insufficient evidence

Gummerson, Ernest, 84, died 18/01/71: Natural death

Habberjam, Arthur, 71, died 03/03/71: Natural death

Hainsworth, Frederick Walsh, 65, died 16/02/72: Insufficient evidence

Hammill, Butterfield, 86, died 04/04/72: Cause for some suspicion

Hanks, Thomas Ernest, 66, died 07/04/71: Insufficient evidence

Hardacre, Ada, 85, died 03/12/70: Natural death

Harker, Minnie, 62, died 13/02/74: Insufficient evidence

Harrison, John Auty, 70, died 08/05/72: Cause for significant suspicion

Harrison, Ruth Margaret, 3 months, died 21/08/72: Natural death

Hartley, Fred, 76, died 18/06/71: Natural death

Heath, Wilfred, 65, died 30/04/71: Natural death

Heaton, Emily, 69, died 30/05/72: Natural death

Heston, Emily, 86, died 20/04/72: Insufficient evidence

Hewitt, Albert, 87, died 27/07/72: Natural death

Hodgson, Walter Martin, 58. died 12/05/72: Insufficient evidence

Holbrook, Eunice, 71, died 05/05/71: Natural death

Hough, Florence, 86, died 04/02/72: Insufficient evidence

Hough, Sarah Elizabeth, 69, died 15/06/71: Insufficient evidence

Houston, Lucy Ann, 73, died 22/05/72: Insufficient evidence

Hunt, Harry, 64, died 01/07/72: Insufficient evidence

Ingleson, Tina Louise, at birth, died 22/12/71: Natural death

Jackson, Clara, 83, died 27/07/72: Natural death

Johnson, Arthur, 59, died 03/04/72: Insufficient evidence

Johnson, Henry, 86, died 21/05/71: Natural death

Ketchell, Shaun, 2 months, died 18/09/71: Natural death

King, Frederick, 58, died 03/07/72: Natural death

Lai, Simon, 1 hour, died 20/02/73: Natural death

Lakin, Susanah, 69, died 01/01/71: Natural death

Lakin, William, 57, died 10/02/72: Natural death

Laverick, Wilfred, 84, died 22/05/71: Insufficient evidence

Link, Clara, 72, died 03/07/72: Natural death

Lythe, Albert, 73, died 19/05/72: Natural death

McCourt, Bernadette, 2 days, died 07/01/72: Natural death

Macfarlane, Cissie, 57, died 29/02/72: Cause for some suspicion

Maeer, Albert, 57, died 15/03/72: Natural death

Mallinson, Alfred, 51, died 17/04/72: Natural death

Manley, Norman, 55, died 17/12/70: Natural death

Marshall, Joseph, 75. died 16/04/72: Natural death

Mason, Eva, 51, died 29/05/72: Insufficient evidence

Matthews, Clare Louise, 1 month, died 29/05/73: Natural death

Mosby, Albert Edward, 81, died 06/02/72: Insufficient evidence

Nash, Annie, 70, died 12/05/72: Cause for some suspicion

Nicholson, Kathleen Margaret, 51, died 12/04/72: Insufficient evidence

Oliver, Ernest, 62, died 31/03/71: Insufficient evidence

Outwin, David Michael, 24, died 12/07/72: Natural death

Parkes, Emily, 86, died, 10/07/72: Natural death

Parkes, Martha, 89, died 28/05/72: Insufficient evidence

Parkin, Bertha, 58, died 06/04/72: Natural death

Phelps, Martha Ann, 75, died 20/07/72: Insufficient evidence

Potter, Kevin, 1 month, died 18/08/73: Natural death

Powell, Alice, 77, died 10/05/72: Insufficient evidence

Powis, Annie Elizabeth, 76, died 28/03/72: Insufficient evidence

Price, Mary Ellen, 73, died 09/03/72: Cause for some suspicion

Redfearn, Thomas, 65, died 28/10/70: Insufficient evidence

Rhodes, James, 71, died 22/05/72: Unlawful killing

Richardson, James William, 65, died 20/06/71: Natural death

Rider, Hannah, 88, died 06/05/73: Natural death

Ridge, Thomas Henry, 81, died 08/05/72: Cause for some suspicion

Roper, Mary Elizabeth, 50, died 06/07/72: Insufficient evidence

Sadd, Herbert, 63, died 27/05/72: Insufficient evidence

Sanderson, Wilfred Arnold, 62, died 18/03/71: Cause for some suspicion

Scarth, Annie, 75, died 29/06/72: Insufficient evidence

Schofield, Fanny, 78, died 18/04/72: Insufficient evidence

Scott, Agnes, 75, died 10/05/72: Natural death

Sharpe, Kate, 82, died 12/03/72: Insufficient evidence

Sheard, Ernest, 73, died 22/05/72: Insufficient evidence

Shepherd, Gertrude Millicent, 73, died 06/03/72: Natural death

Sidebottom, Albert, 91, died 16/11/70: Natural death

Siemiernik, Marian, 59, died 18/05/72: Natural death

Skitt, Edwin, 58, died 23/03/71: Natural death

Smith, Alice, 80, died 14/04/72: Cause for some suspicion

Smith, Christopher John, 5 months, died 21/12/72: Natural death

Smith, Ernest, 75, died 13/03/72: Insufficient evidence

Spence, Walter, 75, died 23/04/72: Cause for some suspicion

Spiers, Ethel, 82, died 24/06/72: Natural death

Stephenson, Alice Mary, 6 hours, died 02/02/73: Natural death

Sterland, John, 67, died 12/07/72: Natural death

Sullivan, James, 80, died 24/05/72: Natural death

Swift, Edith Mary, 49, died 09/05/71: Cause for some suspicion

Taylor, Donald, 55, died 05/02/72: Natural death

Taylor, Rebecca, 75, died 20/04/72: Natural death

Teal, Gladys, 50, died 28/09/70: Natural death

Thompson, Margaret, 67, died 02/03/71: Cause for some suspicion

Thwaites, Elizabeth, 74, died 14/04/72: Cause for significant suspicion

Turner, Mary, 86, died 08/03/72: Insufficient evidence

Turner, William, 52, 06/03/72: Natural death

Tyrrell, James, 85, died 02/07/72: Insufficient evidence

Walsh, Eva Anna, 52, died 24/08/70: Natural death

Wandless, Ada, 55, died 12/04/72: Cause for some suspicion

Wardlaw, Peter, 56, died 04/03/72: Insufficient evidence

Waring, Stanley, 79, died 22/12/70: Natural death

Watson, Harold, 64, died 25/04/72: Insufficient evidence

Webster, Lily, 68, died 25/02/71: Insufficient evidence

Wiffen, George Leonard, 72, died 09/01/71: Natural death

Willies, Rheta Miriam, 73, died 31/03/72: Insufficient evidence