Born the middle child into a working class family on 14 January 1946, Harold Frederick Shipman, known as Fred, was the favourite child of his domineering mother, Vera. She instilled in him an early sense of superiority that tainted most of his later relationships, leaving him an isolated adolescent with few friends.
When his mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he willingly oversaw her care as she declined, fascinated by the positive effect that the administration of morphine had on her suffering, until she succumbed to the disease on 21 June 1963. Devastated by her death, he was determined to go to medical school, and he was admitted to Leeds University medical school for training two years later, having failed his entrance exams first time, before serving his hospital internship.
Still a loner, he met his wife-to-be Primrose at the age of 19, and they were married when she was 17, and five months pregnant with their first child.
By 1974, he was a father of two and had joined a medical practice in Todmorden, Yorkshire, where he initially thrived as a family practitioner, before allegedly becoming addicted to the painkiller Pethidine. He forged prescriptions for large amounts of the drug, and he was forced to leave the practice when caught by his medical colleagues in 1975, at which time he entered a drug rehab programme. In the subsequent inquiry he received a small fine and a conviction for forgery.
A couple of years later he was accepted onto the staff at Donneybrook Medical Centre in Hyde, where he ingratiated himself as a hardworking doctor, who enjoyed the trust of patients and colleagues alike, although he had a reputation for arrogance amongst junior staff. He remained on staff there for almost two decades, and his behaviour incurred only minor interest from other healthcare professionals.