Click here for a list of the known 215 victims.
Family GP Harold Shipman became the focus of Europe's biggest ever murder investigation: he is suspected of killing more than
250 patients over 25 years. Dr. Death -- as he is known by British media -- was linked to 77 killings after police subsequently charged him with six murders and started investigating other suspicious deaths surrounding his medical practice.
Originally arrested on 7th September 1998,
Shipman was initially charged with one murder, that of Mrs. Kathleen Grundy aged 81.
Up to nine bodies were exhumed by police . Police checked the bodies for lethal dosages of drugs. To avoid publicity and crowds, police had been performing the exhumations at night, witnessed by a priest. All the exhumations have recovered the remains of female patients ranging in age from 49 to 81. In many of the cases, Dr Shipman's patients opted for cremation, forcing investigators to make deductions from the patients' medical records and from their families' evidence.
The investigation into Shipman's practice began after relatives of Mrs. Grundy, a former mayoress and respected charity worker from Hyde, near Manchester, discovered that she had left nothing in her will to her two sons and her daughter. The will had been changed only 15 days before her death. Dr Shipman is charged with falsely obtaining cash and possessions from Mrs. Grundy's estate, the will had been altered in Shipman's favour, to the tune of £386,000.
Police said after Shipman was charged with the first murder that he may have claimed another 27 victims, all former patients. The bearded, grey-haired doctor wept when he first appeared in court charged with three murders.
Shipman had provided death certificates giving plausible causes of death for his alleged victims, most of whom were elderly. He had practiced as a family doctor in Hyde for more than 20 years and police are now reported to be investigating up to 3 000 prescriptions that he wrote.
"He is the dullest serial killer I have ever met," a spokesman for the Greater Manchester Police said. "He certainly doesn't act like a murderer." This is the feeling echoed by almost everyone who has come into contact with Harold Shipman, the quiet doctor who has been accused and charged of being one of Britain's most prolific killers of modern times.
Dr Shipman was found guilty by a jury of seven men and five women in a total of 15 murders. It is reported that a total of 150 further cases are being investigated, although the Greater Manchester Police remain tight-lipped. They refused to "enter into speculation about more charges or whether a line will be drawn here". All of the deaths were sudden. All of these vulnerable elderly women died within an hour of a house call from their doctor, who, it is claimed, administered a fatal injection of diamorphine, (Heroin) after which it is alleged he fabricated the cause of death on the death certificates, and in the case of Mrs. Grundy, altered her will.
31st November 2000, Sentenced, Shipman was condemned to 15 life sentences.
At age 17 "Fred", as Shipman was known as a child, witnessed the death of his dear mother, at this age he had seen doctors applying doses of morphine to relieve pain in his cancer ridden mother. He was a clever child who progressed well through junior school, moving on to High Pavement Grammar School. In 1965 he went on to study Medicine at Leeds University. When only 17, his girlfriend, Primrose, became pregnant, his life was again turned upside down, they got married in November 1966, and went on to have four children.
In 1970 Shipman had graduated from university and worked in a local infirmary, where he potentially killed at least 25 of his paitents. By 1974 he was a General practitioner (GP). Shipman started suffering blackouts, it was then that a friend discovered that he was addicted to the Morphine type drug of Pethidine. It was discovered that Fred had been writing himself prescriptions for these potentially lethal drugs. Fired from his job as a GP and given a heavy fine, Shipman went off to a drug treatment centre, saying that he had got involved with drugs while at university, strangely he was never struck off as a GP at that time. In 1977 he emerged in Hyde where he joined a local GP practice, and in 1993 set up his very own practice, Described as very arrogant by the police when they first arrested him, Shipman denied all charges levied against him. According to the DCI that interviewed him he was dominant and controlling, and attempted to control the interview, twisting things the way he wanted, belittling the police at every opportunity. The local coroner is convinced that Shipman killed because he enjoyed it, he enjoyed viewing the process of death, he liked the feeling of power over life and death. A forensic psychologist who spoke with Shipman disagrees, he believes Fred was trying to resolve an anxiety within himself, perhaps an anxiety that even Shipman did not realise he had.
Princess Anne shakes hand of well spoken man on a visit to Strangeways prison, it was Shipman
Police still getting calls from the public suggesting further Shipman victims. Body count may now be as high as 175
Shipman moved from Strangeways prison in Manchester to undisclosed location, after it was discovered that he may have been responsible for the death of two of the relatives of prison guards at the prison.
23 further charges of murder that were passed to the CPS (Crown Prosecution service) are NOT to be progressed any further..... !!
28th February 2000
An official appeal against his conviction on 15 counts of murder and one of forgery against Dr. Harold Shipman has been lodged within the mandatory 28 day period at Preston Crown Court. papers will now be prepared and sent to the Appeal Court in London. No date for the appeal has yet been set.
5th May 2001,
Press speculation mounts as it is revealed that some research into the death rates in Shipman's surgery was much higher than the national average. Various figures have been quoted, putting Shipman's total at possibly as high as 500. We wait to see if any of this can be substantiated.
July 24, 2002
Until last week, Britain’s worst serial killer ever was Victorian poisoner, Mary Ann Cotton, who murdered 21 people in the 1870s. Now that dubious distinction is claimed by Manchester GP Dr. Harold Shipman.
Officially, Dr. Harold Shipman murdered at least 215 of his patients – 171 women and 44 men ranging in age from 41 to 93. After a year-long public inquiry, the 2,000-page report into his 23-year murder spree was released by High Court Judge Dame Janet Smith. The records of nearly 500 patients of Shipman’s who died while in his care between 1978 and 1998 were scrutinized in the investigation.
Another investigation, conducted by University of Leicester professor Richard Baker determined that the real minimum number of Shipman victims was 236.
Judge Smith found Shipman’s “non-violent” killing almost incredible. “The way in which Shipman could kill, face the relatives and walk away unsuspected would be dismissed as fanciful if described in a work of fiction.” Even more incredible was that his murders of so many people did not arouse suspicion for decades, even though there were supposedly safeguards in place at that time.
Clearly new safeguards are needed and a number of them are now in the works in Britain. For example, after he murdered a victim, Dr. Shipman would often arrange for the body to be cremated if the family did not object, thereby destroying evidence of his crime. Judge Smith pointed out that new pre-cremation procedures are needed to prevent future abuse. Also, the system failed tragically when Shipman, after being convicted of drug abuse in 1975, was allowed to obtain enormous quantities of painkilling drugs.
Tuesday 13th January 2004. Dr Harold Shipman was discovered hanging from bed sheets tied to the window bars in his cell at Wakefield prison at 6:20am.
Staff attempted to revive him, but he was pronounced dead at 8:10am. by a doctor. The prison confirmed he was NOT on suicide watch. It was also revealed that he had recently had all prison privileges removed due to "Bad Behaviour".
Outcry in the British national press as it is reported that Shipman's wife Primrose will get a lump payment of £100,000 and £10,000 a year from her husbands pension.
27th January 2005.
The sixth report into Shipman, has concluded that Shipman was probably responsible for 250 deaths between 1971 and 1998.
Dame Janet Smith, the inquiry chairman, said that Harold Shipman was responsible for at least a further three deaths in Hyde, Greater Manchester in 1972.
They were identified as Thomas Cullumbine 54, John Brewster, 84, and James Rhodes, 71. Shipman was also to blame for up to 15 further deaths while he was training to be a doctor at Pontefract General Infirmary in West Yorkshire, Dame Janet said.
The Shipman Inquiry, which has taken 2,500 witness statements and collated more than 100,000 pages of evidence, was ordered by the UK Government in February 2000.