Harold Shipman

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Harold Shipman
Harold Shipman mug shot.jpg
Shipman c. 2000
Born Harold Frederick Shipman
(1946-01-14)14 January 1946
Nottingham, England
Died 13 January 2004(2004-01-13) (aged 57)
HM Prison Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England
Cause of death Suicide by hanging
Other names "Dr Death"
"The Angel Of Death"
"The Good Doctor" [1]
Occupation General practitioner
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment (Whole life order) plus 4 years for forgery
Spouse(s) Primrose Oxtoby (m. 1966; his death 2004)
Children 4
Killings
Victims 250+
Span of killings
1975–1998
Country England
Date apprehended
7 September 1998

Harold Frederick Shipman[2] (14 January 1946 – 13 January 2004) was a British general practitioner and one of the most prolific serial killers in recorded history. On 31 January 2000, a jury found Shipman guilty of fifteen murders. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with the recommendation that he never be released.

The Shipman Inquiry, a two-year-long investigation of all deaths certified by Shipman chaired by Dame Janet Smith, identified 218 victims and estimated his total victim count at 250, about 80% of whom were women. His youngest confirmed victim was a 41-year-old man,[3] although "significant suspicion" arose concerning patients as young as 4.[4]

Much of Britain's legal structure concerning health care and medicine was reviewed and modified as a result of Shipman's crimes. He is the only British physician to have been found guilty of murdering his patients, although other doctors have been acquitted of similar crimes or convicted on lesser charges.[5]

Shipman died on 13 January 2004, one day prior to his 58th birthday, by hanging himself in his cell at Wakefield Prison.

Early life and career[edit]

Harold Frederick Shipman was born on the Bestwood council estate[6] in Nottingham, England, the second of the four children of Harold Frederick Shipman (12 May 1914 – 5 January 1985), a lorry driver, and Vera Brittan (23 December 1919 – 21 June 1963).[7][8] His working-class parents were devout Methodists.[7][8] Growing up, Shipman proved himself an accomplished rugby player in youth leagues. He excelled as a distance runner and in his final year at school, served as vice-captain of the athletics team. Shipman was particularly close to his mother, who died of lung cancer when he was seventeen.[9][8][10] Her death came in a manner similar to what later became Shipman's own modus operandi: in the later stages of her disease, she had morphine administered at home by a doctor. Shipman witnessed his mother's pain subside despite her terminal condition, up until her death on 21 June 1963.[11]

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

Shipman studied medicine at Leeds School of Medicine and graduated in 1970.[12] He started working at Pontefract General Infirmary in Pontefract, West Riding of Yorkshire, and in 1974 took his first position as a general practitioner (GP) at the Abraham Ormerod Medical Centre in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. In 1975, he was caught forging prescriptions of pethidine (Demerol) for his own use. He was fined £600 and briefly attended a drug rehabilitation clinic in York. He became a GP at the Donneybrook Medical Centre in Hyde near Manchester, in 1977.[12][13]

Shipman continued working as a GP in Hyde throughout the 1980s and began his own surgery at 21 Market Street in 1993, becoming a respected member of the community. In 1983, he was interviewed on the Granada Television documentary World in Action on how the mentally ill should be treated in the community.[14] A year after his conviction, the interview was rebroadcast on Tonight with Trevor McDonald.[15]

Detection[edit]

In March 1998, Linda Reynolds of the Brooke Surgery in Hyde, prompted by Deborah Massey from Frank Massey and Son's funeral parlour, expressed concerns to John Pollard, the coroner for the South Manchester District, about the high death rate among Shipman's patients. In particular, she was concerned about the large number of cremation forms for elderly women that he had needed countersigned. The matter was brought to the attention of the police, who were unable to find sufficient evidence to bring charges; the Shipman Inquiry later blamed the police for assigning inexperienced officers to the case. Between 17 April 1998, when the police abandoned the investigation, and Shipman's eventual arrest, he killed three more people.[16][17] His last victim was Kathleen Grundy, who was found dead at her home on 24 June 1998. Shipman was the last person to see her alive, and later signed her death certificate, recording "old age" as the cause of death.

In August 1998 taxi driver John Shaw, from Hyde, contacted the police, informing them that he suspected Shipman of murdering 21 of his patients.[18] Grundy's daughter, lawyer Angela Woodruff, became concerned when solicitor Brian Burgess informed her that a will had been made, apparently by her mother. There were doubts about its authenticity. The will excluded her and her children, but left £386,000 to Shipman. Burgess told Woodruff to report it, and she went to the police, who began an investigation. Grundy's body was exhumed, and when examined was found to contain traces of diamorphine, often used for pain control in terminal cancer patients. Shipman was arrested on 7 September 1998, and was found to own a typewriter of the kind used to make the forged will.[19]

The police then investigated other deaths Shipman had certified, and created a list of 15 specimen cases to investigate. They discovered a pattern of his administering lethal doses of diamorphine, signing patients' death certificates, and then falsifying medical records to indicate that they had been in poor health.[20]

Prescription For Murder, a 2000 book by journalists Brian Whittle and Jean Ritchie, advanced two theories on Shipman's motive for forging the will: that he wanted to be caught because his life was out of control, or that he planned to retire at age 55 and leave the UK.[21]

In 2003, David Spiegelhalter et al. suggested that "statistical monitoring could have led to an alarm being raised at the end of 1996, when there were 67 excess deaths in females aged over 65 years, compared with 119 by 1998."[22]

Trial and imprisonment[edit]

Shipman's trial began at Preston Crown Court on 5 October 1999. Shipman was charged with the murders of 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 by lethal injections of diamorphine, all between 1995 and 1998. His legal representatives tried, but failed, to have the Grundy case, where a clear motive was alleged, tried separately from the others, where no motive was apparent.

On 31 January 2000, after six days of deliberation, the jury found Shipman guilty of 15 counts of murder and one count of forgery. Mr Justice Forbes subsequently sentenced Shipman to 15 concurrent life sentences, with a recommendation that he never be released, to be served concurrently with a sentence of four years for forging Grundy's will.[23] On 11 February 2000, ten days after his conviction, the General Medical Council formally struck Shipman off its register. Two years later, Home Secretary David Blunkett confirmed the judge's whole life tariff, just months before British government ministers lost their power to set minimum terms for prisoners.[24][25]

While many additional charges could have been brought, authorities concluded that a fair hearing would be impossible in view of the enormous publicity surrounding the original trial. Furthermore, the 15 life sentences already handed down rendered further litigation unnecessary.[26][27]

Shipman consistently denied his guilt, disputing the scientific evidence against him. He never made any public statements about his actions. Shipman's wife, Primrose, steadfastly maintained her husband's innocence, even after his conviction.[28]

Shipman is the only doctor in the history of British medicine found guilty of murdering his patients.[29] John Bodkin Adams was charged in 1957 with murdering a patient, amid rumours he had killed dozens more over a ten-year period and "possibly provided the role model for Shipman." But he was acquitted.[30] [31] Historian Pamela Cullen has argued that because of Adams' acquittal, there was no impetus to examine the flaws in the British system until the Shipman case.[32]

Death[edit]

Shipman hanged himself in his cell at Wakefield Prison at 06:20 on 13 January 2004, on the eve of his 58th birthday, and was pronounced dead at 08:10. A Prison Service statement indicated that Shipman had hanged himself from the window bars of his cell using bed sheets.[33] Some British tabloids expressed joy at his suicide and encouraged other serial killers to follow his example; The Sun ran a celebratory front page headline, "Ship Ship hooray!"[34]

Some of the victims' families said they felt cheated,[35] as his suicide meant they would never have the satisfaction of Shipman's confession, and answers as to why he committed his crimes. The Home Secretary David Blunkett noted that celebration was tempting, saying: "You wake up and you receive a call telling you Shipman has topped himself and you think, is it too early to open a bottle? And then you discover that everybody's very upset that he's done it."[36]

Despite The Sun's celebration of Shipman's suicide, his death divided national newspapers, with the Daily Mirror branding him a "cold coward" and condemning the Prison Service for allowing his suicide to happen. The Independent, on the other hand, called for the inquiry into Shipman's suicide to look more widely at the state of Britain's prisons as well as the welfare of inmates.[37] In The Guardian, an article by Sir David Ramsbotham (former Chief Inspector of Prisons) suggested that whole life sentencing be replaced by indefinite sentencing as these would at least give prisoners the hope of eventual release and reduce the risk of their ending their own lives by suicide as well as making their management easier for prison officials.[37]

Shipman's motive for suicide was never established, although he had reportedly told his probation officer that he was considering suicide to assure his wife's financial security after he was stripped of his National Health Service (NHS) pension.[38] Primrose Shipman received a full NHS pension, to which she would not have been entitled had Shipman lived past age 60.[39] Additionally, there was evidence that his wife, who had consistently protested Shipman's innocence despite the overwhelming evidence, had begun to suspect his guilt. Shipman had refused to take part in courses leading toward a full confession of his crimes, leading to temporary removal of privileges, including the opportunity to telephone his wife.[39][40] During this period, according to Shipman's cellmate, he received a letter from Primrose exhorting him to "tell me everything, no matter what".[28] A 2005 inquiry found that Shipman's suicide "could not have been predicted or prevented", but that procedures should nonetheless be re-examined.[39]

Aftermath[edit]

In January 2001, Chris Gregg, a senior West Yorkshire detective, was selected to lead an investigation into 22 of the West Yorkshire deaths.[41] Following this, the Shipman Inquiry into Shipman's activities, submitted in July 2002, concluded that he had killed at least 215 of his patients between 1975 and 1998, during which time he practised in Todmorden, West Yorkshire (1974–1975), and Hyde, Greater Manchester (1977–1998). Dame Janet Smith, the judge who submitted the report, admitted that many more suspicious deaths could not be definitively ascribed to him. Most of his victims were elderly women in good health.[3]

In her sixth and final report, issued on 24 January 2005, Smith reported that she believed that Shipman had killed three patients, and she had serious suspicions about four further deaths, including that of a four-year-old girl, during the early stage of his medical career at Pontefract General Infirmary in Pontefract, West Riding of Yorkshire. In total, 459 people died while under his care between 1971 and 1998, but it is uncertain how many of those were murder victims, as he was often the only doctor to certify a death. Smith's estimate of Shipman's total victim count over that 27-year period was 250.[3][4]

The General Medical Council charged six doctors, who signed cremation forms for Shipman's victims, with misconduct, claiming they should have noticed the pattern between Shipman's home visits and his patients' deaths. All these doctors were found not guilty. In October 2005, a similar hearing was held against two doctors who worked at Tameside General Hospital in 1994, who failed to detect that Shipman had deliberately administered a "grossly excessive" dose of morphine.[42][43] The Shipman Inquiry recommended changes to the structure of the General Medical Council.[44]

In 2005, it came to light that Shipman might have stolen jewellery from his victims. Over £10,000 worth of jewellery had been found stashed in his garage in 1998, and in March 2005, with Primrose Shipman asking for it to be returned to her, police wrote to the families of Shipman's victims asking them to identify the jewellery.[45][46][47]

Unidentified items were handed to the Assets Recovery Agency in May.[48] In August the investigation ended: 66 pieces were returned to Primrose Shipman and 33 pieces, which she confirmed were not hers, were auctioned. The proceeds of the auction went to Tameside Victim Support.[49][50] The only piece returned to a murdered patient's family was a platinum-diamond ring, for which the family were able to provide a photograph as proof of ownership.

A memorial garden to Shipman's victims, called the Garden of Tranquillity, opened in Hyde Park (Hyde) on 30 July 2005.[51]

As of early 2009, families of the victims of Shipman were still seeking compensation for the loss of their relatives.[52] In September 2009, it was announced that letters written by Shipman during his prison sentence were to be sold at auction,[53] but following complaints from victims' relatives and the media, the letters were withdrawn from the sale.[54]

Shipman effect[edit]

In the wake of the Shipman case and a series of recommendations included in the Shipman Inquiry report, alterations in standard medical procedure took place in Britain which have subsequently been referred to as the "Shipman effect". Many physicians have reported changes in their dispensing practices; a reluctance to risk over-prescribing pain medication may have led to under-prescribing. Death certification practices were altered as well.[55] Perhaps the largest change was the movement from single-doctor general practices to multiple-doctor general practices. This was not a direct recommendation, but rather because the report stated that there was not enough safeguarding and monitoring of doctors' decisions.[56][57]

In media[edit]

Harold and Fred (They Make Ladies Dead) was a 2001 strip cartoon in Viz, also featuring serial killer Fred West. Some relatives of Shipman's victims voiced anger at the cartoon.[58][59]

Shipman, a television dramatisation of the case, was made in 2002 and starred James Bolam in the title role.[60] The case was referenced in an episode of the 2003 CBS television medical drama series Diagnosis: Unknown called "Deadly Medicine" (Season 2, Episode 17).[61] In his role as Jack Halford in the 2010 "Where There's Smoke" episode of the BBC One television series New Tricks, James Bolam mentions Shipman in a lecture on serial killers.

The British band, The Fall, refer to Shipman in their song "What About Us?" on the 2005 album "Heads Roll." The lyrics of the song mention a "doctor giving out morphine" and the chorus includes singer Mark E. Smith and back-up singers chanting in call and response, "What about us? (Shipman!)"

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Shipman known as 'angel of death'". BBC News. BBC. 9 July 2001. Retrieved 5 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Harold Shipman: The killer doctor". BBC News. 13 January 2004. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Shipman Inquiry". The Shipman Inquiry. Archived from the original on 13 April 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Shipman 'killed early in career'". BBC News. 27 January 2005. 
  5. ^ Stovold, James. "The Case of Dr. John Bodkin Adams". Strangerinblood.co.uk. Retrieved 4 June 2010. 
  6. ^ Oliver, Mark (13 January 2004). "Portrait of a necrophiliac". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ a b Swan, Norman (29 July 2002). "Why Some Doctors Kill". The Health Report. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c Kaplan, Robert M. (2009). Medical Murder: Disturbing Cases of Doctors Who Kill. Allen & Unwin. pp. 59–60. ISBN 1-74175-610-3. 
  9. ^ Born to Kill?, Channel 5, 2 August 2012
  10. ^ Herbert, Ian (14 January 2004). "How a humble GP perverted his medical skill to become Britain's most prolific mass killer". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  11. ^ [1] The Early Life of Harold Shipman
  12. ^ a b "Harold Shipman: Timeline". BBC News. 18 July 2002. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  13. ^ Bunyan, Nigel (16 June 2001). "The Killing Fields of Harold Shipman". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  14. ^ [2] Archived 22 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "Shipman interview rebroadcast". BBC News. 8 February 2001. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  16. ^ Second Report — The Police Investigation of March 1998 (Cm 5853). The Shipman Inquiry. 14 July 2003. 
  17. ^ "Shipman inquiry criticises police". BBC News. 14 July 2003. Retrieved 30 July 2005. 
  18. ^ "'I feel guilty over Shipman killings'". BBC. 30 September 2003. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  19. ^ "The Shipman tapes I". BBC News. 31 January 2000. Retrieved 27 September 2008. 
  20. ^ "UK Doctor 'forged victim's medical history'". BBC News. 8 November 1999. Retrieved 27 September 2008. 
  21. ^ Whittle, B and Richie, J. Prescription for Murder: The True Story of Dr. Harold Frederick Shipman. Little Brown (2000), pp. 348–9. ISBN 0751529982.
  22. ^ Spiegelhalter, D. et al. Risk-adjusted sequential probability ratio tests: application to Bristol, Shipman and adult cardiac surgery. Int J Qual Health Care, vol. 15, pp. 7–13 (2003).
  23. ^ "Shipman jailed for 15 murders". BBC News. 31 January 2000. Retrieved 16 September 2016. 
  24. ^ Frith, Maxine (11 February 2000). "GMC strikes Shipman off medical register". The Independent. London. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  25. ^ "Shipman struck off". BBC News. 11 February 2000. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  26. ^ The Shipman Inquiry — Sixth Report — Conclusions Archived 13 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ "Shipman's 'reckless' experiments". BBC News. 27 January 2005. 
  28. ^ a b Sweet, Corinne (16 January 2004). "He could do no wrong". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  29. ^ Strangerinblood.co.uk Nigel Cox was convicted of attempted murder in 1992, in the death of Lillian Boyes.
  30. ^ Kinnell, HG (2000). "Serial homicide by doctors: Shipman in perspective". BMJ. 321 (7276): 1594–7. PMC 1119267Freely accessible. PMID 11124192. doi:10.1136/bmj.321.7276.1594. 
  31. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/event/article-2324941/CRAIG-BROWN-A-glutton-murder-The-Curious-Habits-Of-Doctor-Adams-like-Agatha-Christie-gone-wrong.html
  32. ^ Stovold, James. "Strangerinblood.co.uk". Strangerinblood.co.uk. Retrieved 4 June 2010. 
  33. ^ "Harold Shipman found dead in cell". BBC. 13 January 2004. 
  34. ^ Hattenstone, Simon (19 January 2004). "Is it the Sun that's gone bonkers?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  35. ^ "No mourning from Shipman families". BBC News. 13 January 2004. 
  36. ^ "Blunkett admits Shipman error". BBC News. 16 January 2004. 
  37. ^ a b "Shipman's death divides papers". BBC News. 14 January 2004. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  38. ^ "Shipman leaves his wife £24,000". BBC News. 8 April 2004. 
  39. ^ a b c "Shipman suicide 'not preventable'". BBC News. 25 August 2005. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  40. ^ "Harold Shipman found dead in cell". BBC News. 13 January 2004. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  41. ^ "How many more did Shipman kill?". The Independent. London. 9 October 2001. Retrieved 19 September 2009. 
  42. ^ "Shipman doctors deny misconduct". BBC News. 3 October 2005. 
  43. ^ "Shipman doctor 'not good enough'". BBC News. 11 October 2005. 
  44. ^ "Shipman report demands GMC reform". BBC News. 9 December 2004. 
  45. ^ "Theft fears over 'Shipman gems'". BBC News. 17 March 2005. 
  46. ^ "Twenty make Shipman jewels claims". BBC News. 15 April 2005. 
  47. ^ "Shipman's stolen gems found in his wife's jewellery box". The Guardian. 31 August 2005. Retrieved 16 August 2017. 
  48. ^ "Shipman jewels not going to widow". BBC News. 24 May 2005. 
  49. ^ "Shipman stole victim's jewellery". BBC News. 31 August 2005. 
  50. ^ "Shipman's stolen gems found in his wife's jewellery box". London: The Guardian. 31 August 2005. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  51. ^ "Garden tribute to Shipman victims". BBC News. 30 July 2005. 
  52. ^ "Alexander Harris, the law firm who represented families of victims of Allitt and Shipman". Alexander Harris. 25 August 2006. Archived from the original on 30 September 2006. 
  53. ^ "Shipman prison letters to be sold". BBC News. BBC. 27 September 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2009. 
  54. ^ "Shipman letters removed from sale". BBC News. BBC. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  55. ^ "Consultation Paper on Death Certification, Burial and Cremation". Scottish Government. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  56. ^ "'The Shipman Effect'". BBC. BBC. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  57. ^ "The Shipman Effect and changes in assisted suicide". BBC. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  58. ^ Garrett, Jade (1 February 2001). "'Viz' pushes taste to its limits with Shipman cartoon". The Independent. Archived from the original on 23 December 2010. Retrieved 6 March 2009. 
  59. ^ "Anger at Shipman Cartoon". BBC News. 1 February 2001. Retrieved 6 March 2009. 
  60. ^ Roger Bamford (Director) (2002). Shipman (Television drama). 
  61. ^ Greg Francis (Director) (2003). Diagnosis: Unknown: Deadly Medicine (Television series). 

External links[edit]