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At Least 215 Victims: The Story of Dr. Harold Shipman

“Dr. Death” Harold Shipman

A successful doctor, vice-captain of his college athletics team, and devoted family man. Harold Frederick Shipman seemed to have it made. He had life figured out…on the surface.

Shipman was born in Nottingham, England on 12 May, 1914. His devout Methodist parents were working-class citizens who raised their three children to be hard working, pillar members of their community.

Tragedy struck when Shipman’s mother died of lung cancer when he was 17 years old. Shipman was very close with his mother and was often there to watch her doctors administer morphine to help ease her pain as she passed away. This medical treatment must have had an effect on the young man as it became his preferred method of murder years later.

However, for now, Shipman’s life continued on track. On 5 November, 1966 he married Primrose May Oxtoby and they had four children together. Four years later he graduated from the Leeds School of Medicine, opened his own practice at age 21, and began his life as a doctor.

Harold and Primrose Shipman

There is not evidence of drug use prior to this time, but it didn’t take Shipman long to get in trouble with the collection of drugs that were now easily at his disposal. In 1975 he was fined £600 and sent to drug rehabilitation for forging prescriptions of Demerol for his own use. This little hiccup did not slow Shipman’s life down though and he continued to practice medicine throughout the ’80s.

In 1998 Deborah Massey from Frank Massey and Sons Funeral Home shared a concern about the high mortality rates of Shipman’s patients to Linda Reynolds of Brooke Surgery in Hyde. Reynolds then shared those concerns with coroner John Pollard who brought the matter to the police. The police looked into the matter, but there was not enough evidence to convict or continue the investigation.

Life went on normally for Shipman for a few months until John Shaw, a taxi driver, contacted the police to express his suspicions of Shipman of killing 21 patients. From this point, more experienced officers were assigned to the case and the evidence started to mount against the doctor.

Shipman’s final victim, Kathleen Grundy, was found dead in her home on 24 June, 1998. She was last seen by the doctor and her death certificate cited “old age” as the cause of death. There were many doubts regarding the authenticity of this, including the fact that Grundy had just changed her will to exclude her children and leave her £386,000 to Shipman.

With the evidence piling up, Grundy’s body was exhumed and traces of diamorphine were found. Shipman claimed that she was an addict and he was helping with her addiction. He even provided medical notes proving the legitimacy of his claims; however, it didn’t take long for investigators to realize that Shipman’s entries were made after the death of Kathleen Grundy.

Harold Shipman was arrested on 7 September, 1998 and charged with the murder of 15 patients by the use of lethal injection of diamorphine.

  • 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
  • Kathleen Grundy

After 6 days of deliberation, the jury found Shipman guilty of all 15 murders on 31 January, 2000. The former doctor was sentenced to life imprisonment for each murder and it was recommended that he never be released.

Until his dying day both Shipman and his wife proclaimed his innocence. On 13 January, 2004, Harold Shipman was found hanging by his bed sheets from his cell window and proclaimed dead at 8:10am.

Now here comes the even more disgusting part. Shipman was found guilty of 15 murders in 2000, but in 2002 Detective Chris Gregg concluded an investigation that had Shipman killing “at least” 215 people between 1975 and 1998. Furthermore, in 2005 over £10,000 of jewlery was found in Shipman’s garage.

(Former) Dr. Harold Shipman is quite possible the most prolific serial killer to ever walk the earth. His murders were not based on anything other than greed and he used his position to lure people in and steal their lives.

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