12 February 1976 |
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment|
Span of killings
|Weapon||Overdose of insulin|
Colin Campbell Norris (12 February 1976) is a former nurse from the Milton area of Glasgow, Scotland who was convicted of murdering four elderly patients in a hospital in Leeds, England, in 2002. He was sentenced in 2008 to serve a minimum of 30 years in prison. Doubts have since been raised about his conviction by, among others, retired Professor Vincent Marks, a self professed expert on insulin poisoning.
Norris worked at Leeds General Infirmary and St James's Hospital. Suspicions were raised when Norris predicted the death of one patient, Ethel Halls, saying she would die at 5:15am. Her condition worsened badly that morning around 5am and she died some weeks later. He stated at the time: "it is always in the morning when things go wrong". When questioned by police about this and three other patients who had died while he was on duty, he said "he seemed to have been unlucky over the last 12 months". The four patients were 79, 80, 86 and 88 years old. The police investigated 72 cases in total.
The trial, at Newcastle Crown Court, took 19 weeks and the jury deliberated for four days. Norris was convicted, by a majority verdict, on 3 March 2008, of the murder of four women, and the attempted murder of a fifth aged 90. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and ordered to serve a minimum term of 30 years in prison the following day. Judge Mr Justice Griffith rejected any possibility that Norris was practising euthanasia because none of the victims was terminally ill. He told Norris when sentencing:
"You are, I have absolutely no doubt, a thoroughly evil and dangerous man. You are an arrogant and manipulative man with a real dislike of elderly patients. The most telling evidence was that observation of one of your patients, Bridget Tarpey, who said 'he did not like us old women'."
Jessie McTavish, a nurse convicted and then cleared in 1974 for the murder of an 80-year-old patient with insulin, has been identified as a possible inspiration for Norris. He once attended a lecture on her case while studying at University.
Possible concerns over conviction
On 4 October 2011 new concerns were raised about the safety of Norris' conviction. Retired Professor Vincent Marks – a leading expert on insulin poisoning – said the jury at Norris' trial was led to believe by experts that a cluster of hypoglycaemic episodes, among people who were not diabetic, was sinister. The professor said international medical studies carried out in the years since the 35-year-old Glaswegian was convicted told a different story. "Looking at all the evidence, all I can say is I think Colin Norris' conviction is unsafe," he said.
Prof Marks says the four patients picked out by the experts after Mrs Hall's death "were all at very high risk of developing spontaneous hypoglycaemia" because they had risk factors such as malnutrition, infection and multi-organ failure.
Legal observers have noted that, if the medical evidence is discredited, then the case against Norris collapses, there being little motive and no forensic evidence linking him to the crimes.
In 2011 former Rough Justice producer Louise Shorter and journalist Mark Daly produced the documentary A Jury in the Dark, arguing that there were logical, non-criminal explanations for all the deaths. During research for the film, Daly states he discovered an additional death at Leeds General Infirmary which police had initially been investigating as a potential murder carried out by a male nurse, however; the death "went from suspicious to non-suspicious", when police learned that Norris was not on duty at the time.
In May 2013 the Criminal Cases Review Commission confirmed it was re-examining the case in the light of new medical and scientific evidence contradictory to that submitted to the jury during the original trial.
In January 2015 the foreman of the jury that convicted Norris told the BBC that he now believes him to be innocent; apparently the second member of the jury to do so.
In the aftermath of Norris' conviction, the British media drew comparisons with Harold Shipman, Britain's most prolific serial killer who killed more than 250 patients by lethal injections. Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Gregg, who worked on the Shipman case and led the Norris investigation, was convinced that Colin Norris would have gone on to kill considerably more people if he had not been not stopped in his tracks.
In 2006 Benjamin Geen, a nurse at a hospital in Banbury, Oxfordshire, was given 17 life sentences for murdering two of his patients and attacking 15 others. He allegedly used a variety of injections which often included insulin, but his case is also controversial.
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- Echoes of Sensational Case From 1970s – Health – redOrbit