Harold Shipman

Crime Files

"Dr Death"

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.

Timeline

Born: 14 January 1946Victims: 1975 17 March -  Eva Lyons, 70, of Keswick Close, Todmorden1978 7 August - Sarah Hannah Marsland, 86, of Ashton House, Victoria Street, Hyde 30 August - Mary Ellen Jordan, 73, of Godley Hill Road, Hyde 7 December - Harold Bramwell , 73, of Bryce Street, Hyde 20 December - Annie Campbell, 88, of Rydal Avenue, Hyde1979 10 August - Alice Maude Gorton, 76, of Leigh Fold, Newton, Hyde 28 November - Jack Leslie Shelmerdine, 77, of Hyde1981 18 April - May Slater, 84, of Hough Lane, Hyde 26 August - Elizabeth Ashworth, 81, of Peel Street, Hyde1983 4 January - Percy Ward, 90, of Hollins Avenue, Hyde 28 June - Moira Ashton Fox, 77, of Chartist House, Mount Street, Hyde1984 7 January - Dorothy Tucker, 51, of Armadale Road, Dukinfield 8 February - Gladys Roberts, 78, of Shaw Hall Avenue, Hyde 15 April - Joseph Bardsley, 83, of Hough Lane, Newton, Hyde 24 April - Winifred Arrowsmith, 70, of Chartist House, Hyde 21 September - Mary Winterbottom, 76, of Grange Road South, Hyde 27 November - Ada Ashworth, 87, of Spring Avenue, Hyde 17 December - Joseph Vincent Everall, 80, of Commercial Street, Hyde 18 December - Edith Wibberley, 76, of Cheetham Fold Road, Hyde 24 December - Eileen Theresa Cox, 72, of Hunters Court, Dukinfield1985 2 January - Peter Lewis, 41, of Briardene, Denton 1 February - May Brookes, 74, of Cross Street, Hyde 4 February - Ellen Higson, 84, of Marler Road, Hyde 15 February - Margaret Ann Conway, 69, of Mary Street, Dukinfield 22 February - Kathleen McDonald, 73, of Carter Place, Hyde 26 June - Thomas Moult, 70, of Thorpe Hall Grove, Hyde 26 June - Mildred Robinson, 84, of Mona Street, Hyde 23 August - Frances Elizabeth Turner, 85, of Peveril Terrace, Hyde 17 December - Selina Mackenzie, 77, of Perrin Street, Hyde 20 December - Vera Bramwell, 79, of Rufford Avenue, Hyde 31 December - Fred Kellett, 79, of Knott Lane, Gee Cross, Hyde1986 7 January - Deborah Middleton, 81, of 4 Manor Road, Hyde 23 April - Dorothy Fletcher, 74, of Charnley House, Albert Road, Hyde 6 June - Thomas Fowden, 81, of Mona Street, Hyde 15 September - Mona Ashton White, 63, of Thorpe Hall Grove, Newton, Hyde 7 October - Mary Tomlin, 73, of Thorpe Hall Grove, Hyde 17 November - Beatrice Toft, 59, of Marler Road, Hyde 16 December - Lily Broadbent, 75, of Welbeck Road, Hyde 23 December - James Wood, 82, of Rydal Avenue, Hyde1987 30 March - Frank Halliday, 76, of Saxon Avenue, Dukinfield 1 April - Albert Cheetham, 85, of Brooks Avenue, Hyde 16 April - Alice Thomas, 83, of Sidley Place, Hyde 8 May - Jane Frances Rostron, 78, of Hamel Street, Hyde 14 September - Nancy Anne Brassington, 71, of Laburnum Avenue, Hyde 11 December - Margaret Townsend, 80, of Busheyfield Close, Newton, Hyde 29 December - Nellie Bardsley, 69, of Rufford Avenue, Hyde 30 December - Elizabeth Ann Rogers, 74, of Chartist House, Mount Street, Hyde1988 5 January - Elizabeth Fletcher, 90, of St John's Drive, Godley, Hyde 15 January - Alice Mary Jones, 83, of Garden Street, Hyde 9 February - Dorothea Hill Renwick, 90, of Dowson Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 15 February - Ann Cooper, 93, of Old Road, Hyde 15 February - Jane Jones, 83, of Leigh Fold, Hyde 16 February - Lavinia Robinson, 84, of Chartist House, Mount Street, Hyde 18 September - Rose Ann Adshead, 80, of Lawton Street, Hyde 20 October - Alice Prestwich, 69, of Ogden Court, Frank Street, Hyde 6 November - Walter Tingle, 85, of Walker Close, Hyde 17 December - Harry Stafford, 87, of Rock Street, Gee Cross, Hyde 19 December - Ethel Bennett, 80, of Cunliffe Street, Hyde1989 31 January - Wilfred Chappell, 80, of Newton Hall Road, Hyde 8 March - Mary Emma Hamer, 81, of Grange Road South, Hyde 12 May - Beatrice Helen Clee, 78, of King Edward Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 5 June - Josephine Hall, 69, of Garden Street, Newton, Hyde 6 July - Hilda Fitton, 75, of Burkitt Street, Hyde 14 August - Marion Carradice , 80, of Kensington Street, Hyde 22 September - Elsie Harrop, 82, of Frank Street, Hyde 26 September - Elizabeth Mary Burke, 82, of Carter Place, Hyde 15 October - Sarah Jane Williamson, 82, of Thorsby Avenue, Hyde 16 October - John Charlton, 81, of Ogden Court, Frank Street, Hyde 18 October - George Edgar Vizor, 67, of Thorpe Hall Grove, Hyde 6 November - Joseph Frank Wilcockson, 85, of Dow Street, Hyde1990 18 September - Dorothy Rowarth, 56, of Farm Lane, Hyde 30 December - Mary Rose Dudley, 69, of The Woodlands, Werneth Road, Hyde1992 7 October - Monica Rene Sparkes, 72, of Rock Gardens, Gee Cross, Hyde1993 24 February - Hilda Mary Couzens, 92, of Knott Lane, Hyde 24 February - Olive Heginbotham, 86, of Fawley Avenue, Hyde 22 March - Amy Whitehead, 82, of Haughton Green Road, Denton 8 April - Mary Emma Andrew, 86, of Mona Street, Hyde 17 April - Sarah Ashworth, 74, of Bowlacre Road, Hyde 27 April - Marjorie Parker, 74, of Werneth Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde 2 May - Nellie Mullen, 77, of Lanegate, Hyde 4 May - Edna May Llewellyn, 68, of Carter Place, Hyde 12 May - Emily Morgan, 84, of Mansfield Road, Hyde 13 May - Violet May Bird, 60, of Hyde 22 July - Jose Kathleen Diana Richards, 74, of Meadowfield Court, Hyde 16 August - Edith Calverley, 77, of Mansfield Road, Hyde 16 December - Joseph Leigh, 78, of King George Road, Hyde 22 December - Eileen Robinson, 54, of Marlborough Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 31 December - Charles Edward Brocklehurst, 90, of Park Avenue, Hyde1994 4 January - Joan Milray Harding, 82, of Hyde 13 January - Christine Hancock, 53, of Thistley Fields, Gee Cross, Hyde 9 February - Elsie Platt, 73, of Stockport Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 17 May - Mary Alice Smith, 84, of Chartist House, Hyde 25 May - Ronnie Devenport, 57, of Chartist House, Hyde 15 June - Cicely Sharples, 87, of Swindells Street, Newton, Hyde 17 June - Alice Christine Kitchen, 70, of Kirkstone Road, Hyde 27 July - Maria Thornton, 78, of Stockport Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 25 November - Henrietta Walker, 87, of Orchard Street, Hyde 30 November - Elizabeth Ellen Mellor, 75, of Sidley Place, Hyde 29 December - John Bennett Molesdale, 81, of Old Road, Newton, Hyde1995 9 January - Alice Kennedy, 88, of Ogden Court, Frank Street, Hyde 1 March - Lucy Virgin, 70, of Carter Place, Newton, Hyde 7 March - Netta Ashcroft, 71, of Meadowfield Court, Flowery Field, Hyde 7 March - Lily Bardsley, 88, of Ashton Road, Hyde 13 March - Marie Antoinette Fernley, 53, of Darwin Street, Hyde 21 March - John Crompton, 82, of Gloucester Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 26 March - Frank Crompton, 86, of Knott Lane, Hyde 31 March - Vera Brocklehurst, 70, of Queensway, Dukinfield 10 April - Angela Philomena Tierney, 71, of Commercial Street, Hyde 13 April - Edith Scott, 85, of Dowson Road, Hyde 14 April - Clara Hackney, 84, of Booth Street, Hyde 21 April - Renate Eldtraude Overton, 47, of Hyde 4 May - Kate Maud Sellors, 75, of Ashton House, Victoria Street, Hyde 2 June - Clifford Barnes Heapey, 85, of Hyde Nursing Home, Hyde 13 June - Bertha Moss, 68, of Newton Hall Court, Hyde 17 June - Brenda Ashworth, 63, of Meadowfield Court, Hyde 29 June - Ernest Rudol, 82, of Forrest Road, Haughton Green, Denton 12 July - Ada Matley Hilton, 88, of St John's Drive, Godley, Hyde 31 July - Irene Aitken, 65, of Burkitt Street, Hyde 29 August - Arthur Henderson Stopford, 82, of Rydal Avenue, Hyde 14 September - Geoffrey Bogle, 72, of Lord Derby Road, Hyde 26 September - Dora Elizabeth Ashton, 87, of 34 Mona Street, Hyde 24 October - Muriel Margaret Ward, 87, of Ogden Court, Frank Street, Hyde 8 November - Edith Brock, 74, of Carter Place, Hyde 22 November - Charles Henry Barlow, 88, of Dowson Road, Hyde 25 November - Konrad Peter Ovcar-Robinson, 43, of Hyde 14 December - Elizabeth Teresa Sigley, 67, of Stockport Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 14 December - Kenneth Wharmby Woodhead, 75, of Sawyer Brow, Hyde1996 2 January - Hilda Mary Hibbert, 81, of Joel Lane, Gee Cross, Hyde 11 January - Erla Copeland, 79, of Grosvenor Crescent, Hyde 21 February - Jane Elizabeth Shelmerdine, 80, of Napier Street, Gee Cross, Hyde 27 February - John Sheard Greenhalgh, 88, of Cheetham Fold Road, Hyde 12 March - Minnie Doris Irene Galpin, 71, of Meadowfield Court, Hyde 18 April - Marjorie Hope Waller, 79, of Kew Avenue, Hyde 24 April - John Stone, 77, of Dukinfield Road, Hyde 7 May - Elsie Godfrey, 85, of Chartist House, Hyde 13 May - Edith Brady, 72. Ruled unlawful killing at inquiry 29 May - Valerie Cuthbert, 54, of Daisy Bank, Gee Cross, Hyde 30 May - Lilian Cullen, 77, of Foxholes Road, Hyde 6 June - Renee Lacey, 63, of Windsor Road, Hyde 10 June - Leah Fogg, 82, of Haughton Green Road, Denton 17 June - Gladys Saunders, 82, of Ogden Court, Hyde 25 June - Nellie Bennett, 86, of Ravensfield, Gorse Hall Road, Dukinfield 25 June - Margaret Mary Vickers, 81, of Bennett Street, Hyde 2 July - Tom Balfour Russell, 77, of 18 Harrison Street, Gee Cross, Hyde 11 July - Irene Turner, 67, of St Pauls Hill Road, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 16 July - Carrie Leigh, 81, of Joel Lane, Gee Cross, Hyde 19 July - Marion Elizabeth Higham, 84, of Joel Lane, Gee Cross, Hyde 24 July - Elsie Hannible, 85, of Rydal Avenue, Hyde 29 July - Elsie Barker, 84, of Green Street, Hyde 30 August - Sidney Arthur Smith, 76, of Garden Street, Newton, Hyde 12 September - Dorothy Mary Andrew, 85, of Sheffield Road, Godley, Hyde 20 September - Anne Lilian Ralphs, 75, of Baron Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 23 October - Millicent Garside, 76, of St John's Drive, Godley, Hyde 20 November - Irene Heathcote, 76, of Coronation Avenue, Hyde 23 November - Samuel Mills, 89, of Ogden Court, Hyde 4 December - Thomas Cheetham, 78, of Garden Street, Newton, Hyde 17 December - Kenneth Ernest Smith, 73, of Garden Street, Newton, Hyde1997 2 January - Eileen Daphne Crompton, 75, of Charnley House, Albert Road, Hyde 3 January - David Alan Harrison, 47, of Talbot Road, Hyde 8 January - Elsie Lorna Dean, 69, of Wood Street, Hyde 20 January - Irene Brooder, 76, of St Johns Drive, Godley, Hyde 27 January - Charlotte Bennison, 89, of Rowbotham Street, Gee Cross, Hyde 3 February - Charles Henry Killan, 90, of Bagshaw Street, Newton, Hyde 4 February - Betty Royston, 70, of Ogden Court, Hyde 23 February - Joyce Woodhead, 74, of Sawyer Brow, Newton, Hyde 28 February - Lizzie Adams,77, of Coronation Avenue, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 22 March - Rose Garlick, 76, of Taylor Gardens, Hyde 27 March -  May Lowe, 84, of Allen Avenue, Hyde 21 April - Mary Coutts, 80, of Marler Road, Hyde 25 April - Elsie Cheetham, 76, of Garden Street, Hyde 25 April - Jean Lilley, 58, of Jackson Street, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 2 May - Lena Norah Slater, 68, of Newton Hall Court, Hyde 12 May - Ethel May Kellet, 74, of Bankfield, Newton, Hyde 21 May - Doris Earls, 79, of Brabyns Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 29 May - Ivy Lomas, 63, of Thornley Street, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 24 June - Vera Whittingslow, 69, of Dowson Road, Hyde 7 July - Maureen Lamonnier Jackson, 51, of Mottram Road, Hyde 14 July - Muriel Grimshaw, 76, of Berkley Crescent, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 25 July - John Louden Livesey, 69, of Dowson Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 28 July - Lily Newby Taylor, 86, of Brabyns Road, Hyde 10 August - Dorothy Doretta Hopkins, 72, of Darwin Street, Hyde 1 September - Nancy Jackson, 81, of Gower Court, King Edward Road, Hyde 22 September - Mavis Mary Pickup, 79, of Spring Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde 26 September - Bessie Swann, 79, of Brooks Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde 29 September - Enid Otter, 77, of Waverley Road, Hyde 10 November - Florence Lewis, 79, of Mansfield Road, Hyde 14 November - Mary Walls, 78, of Werneth Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde 21 November - Elizabeth Mary Baddeley, 83, of Rowan Court, Stockport Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 24 November - Marie Quinn, 67, of Paul Street, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 8 December - Elizabeth Battersby, 70, of Norbury Avenue, Hyde 9 December - Laura Kathleen Wagstaff, 81, of Rock Gardens, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 10 December - Bianka Pomfret, 49, of Fountain Street, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 18 December - Alice Black, 73, of Plain Pitt Street, Hyde 24 December - James Joseph King, 83, of Ogden Court, Hyde1998 22 January - Mabel Shawcross, 79, of Stockport Road, Hyde 26 January - Norah Nuttall, 64, of Baron Road, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 2 February - Cissie Davies, 73, of Lodge Lane, Newton, Hyde 9 February - Pamela Marguerite Hillier, 68, of Stalybridge Road, Mottram. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 13 February - Laura Frances Linn, 83, of Acorn Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde 15 February - Irene Berry, 74, Rufford Avenue, Hyde 18 February - Maureen Alice Ward, 57, of Ogden Court, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 27 February - Joan Edwina Dean, 75, of Joel Lane, Gee Cross, Hyde 4 March - Harold Eddleston, 77, of Rufford Avenue, Hyde 6 March - Margaret Anne Waldron, 65, of Woodend Lane, Gee Cross, Hyde 7 March - Irene Chapman, 74, of Clarendon Road, Hyde 13 March - Dorothy Long, 84, of Woodfield Avenue, Hyde 17 March - Lily Higgins, 83, of Stockport Road, Gee Cross, Hyde 20 March - Ada Warburton, 77, of Grange Road North, Hyde 24 March - Martha Marley, 88, of Mona Street, Hyde 11 May - Winifred Mellor, 73, of Coronation Avenue, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 12 June - Joan May Melia, 73, of Commercial Street, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000 24 June - Kathleen Grundy, 81, of Joel Lane, Hyde. Shipman convicted of her murder in January 2000Arrested: 7 September 1998Trial: 5 October 1999Convicted: 31 January 2000Died: 13 January 2004

The Aftermath

The fact that a doctor had killed 15 patients sent a shudder through the medical community, but this was to prove insignificant in light of further investigations that delved more deeply into his patient case list history.A clinical audit conducted by Professor Richard Baker, of the University of Leicester, examined the number and pattern of deaths in Harold Shipman's practice and compared them with those of other practitioners. It found that rates of death amongst his elderly patients were significantly higher, clustered at certain times of day and that Shipman was in attendance in a disproportionately high number of cases. The audit goes on to estimate that he may have been responsible for the deaths of at least 236 patients over a 24-year period.Separately, an inquiry commission chaired by High Court Judge, Dame Janet Smith, examined the records of 500 patients who died whilst in Shipman’s care, and the 2,000-page report concluded that it was likely that he had murdered at least 218 of his patients, although this number was offered by Dame Janet as an estimation, rather than a precise calculation, as certain cases presented insufficient evidence to allow for certainty.The commission further speculated that Shipman might have been “addicted to killing”, and was critical of police investigation procedures, claiming that the lack of experience of the investigating officers resulted in missed opportunities to bring Shipman to justice earlier.He may in fact have taken his first victim within months of obtaining his licence to practise medicine, 67-year-old Margaret Thompson, who died in March 1971 whilst recovering from a stroke, but deaths prior to 1975 were never officially proven.Whatever the exact number, the sheer scale of his murderous activities meant that Shipman was catapulted from British patient killer to the most prolific known serial killer in the world. He remained at Durham Prison throughout these investigations, maintaining his innocence, and was staunchly defended by his wife Primrose and family. He was moved to Wakefield Prison in June 2003, which made visits from his family easier.On 13 January 2004 at 6 am, Shipman was discovered hanging in his prison cell at Wakefield, having used bed sheets tied to the window bars of his cell.There remains some mystery about the whereabouts of his remains, with some claiming that his body is still in a Sheffield morgue, while others believe that his family have custody of his body, believing that he may have been murdered in his cell, and wishing to delay his interment pending further tests.

The Trial

The Doctor has his day

Shipman’s trial commenced in Preston Crown Court on 5 October 1999. Attempts by his defence council to have Shipman tried in three separate phases, that is, cases with physical evidence, cases without and the Grundy case (where the forgery differentiated it from other cases), as well as to have damning evidence relating to Shipman’s fraudulent accumulation of morphine and other drugs, were thrown out, and the trial proceeded on the sixteen charges included in the indictment.The prosecution asserted that Shipman had killed the fifteen patients because he enjoyed exercising control over life and death, and dismissed any claims that he had been acting compassionately, as none of his victims were suffering a terminal illness.Angela Woodruff, Kathleen Grundy’s daughter, appeared as first witness. Her forthright manner, and account of her unremitting determination to get to the truth impressed the jury, and attempts by Shipman’s defence to undermine her were largely unsuccessful.Next up, the government pathologist led the court through the gruesome post mortem findings, where morphine toxicity was the cause of death in most instances.Thereafter, fingerprint analysis of the forged will showed that Kathleen Grundy had never handled the will, and her signature was dismissed by a handwriting expert as a crude forgery.

A police computer analyst then testified how Shipman had altered his computer records to create symptoms that his dead patients never had, in most cases within hours of their deaths.As the trial progressed on to other victims and the accounts of their relatives, the pattern of Shipman’s behaviour became much clearer. A lack of compassion, disregard for the wishes of attending relatives, and reluctance to attempt to revive patients were bad enough, but another fraud also came to light. Shipman would pretend to call the emergency services in the presence of relatives, then cancel the call out when the patient was discovered to be dead. Telephone records showed that no actual calls were made.Finally, evidence of his drug hoarding was introduced, with false prescribing to patients who did not require morphine, over-prescribing to others who did, as well as proof of his visits to the homes of the recently deceased to collect up unused drug supplies for “disposal”.Shipman’s haughty demeanour throughout the trial did nothing to assist his defence in painting a picture of a dedicated healthcare professional of the old fashioned variety, always putting the needs of others above his own. Despite their attempts, his arrogance and constantly changing stories, when caught out in obvious lies, did nothing to endear him to the jury.Following a meticulous summation by the judge, and a caution to the jury that no one had actually witnessed Shipman kill any of his patients, the jury were sufficiently convinced by the testimony and evidence presented, and unanimously found Shipman guilty on all charges; 15 counts of murder and one of forgery, on the afternoon of 31 January 2000.The judge passed fifteen life sentences, as well as a four-year sentence for forgery, which he commuted to a 'whole life' sentence, effectively removing any possibility of parole. Shipman was incarcerated at Durham Prison.

The Crimes

Patients dying at a high rate

The local undertaker noticed that Dr Shipman’s patients seemed to be dying at an unusually high rate, and exhibited similar poses in death; most were fully clothed and usually sitting up or reclining on a sofa. He was concerned enough to approach Shipman about this directly, who reassured him that there was nothing to be worried about. Later, another medical colleague, Dr Susan Booth, also found the similarity disturbing and the local coroner’s office were alerted. They in turn contacted the police.A covert investigation followed but Shipman was cleared, as it appeared that his records were in order. The inquiry failed to contact the General Medical Council, or check criminal records, which would have yielded evidence of Shipman’s previous record. Later, a more thorough investigation revealed that Shipman altered the medical records of his patients to corroborate their causes of death.

Hiding behind his status as a caring, family doctor, it is almost impossible to establish exactly when Shipman began killing his patients, or indeed exactly how many died at his hands, and his denial of all charges did nothing to assist the authorities. Indeed, his killing spree was only brought to an end thanks to the determination of Angela Woodruff, the daughter of one of his victims, who refused to accept the explanations given for her mother’s death.Kathleen Grundy, an active, wealthy 81-year-old widow, was found dead in her home on 24 June 1998, following an earlier visit by Shipman. Woodruff was advised by Shipman that an autopsy was not required, and Kathleen Grundy was buried in accordance with her daughter’s wishes.Woodruff was a solicitor, and had always handled her mother’s affairs, so it was with some surprise that she discovered that another will existed, leaving the bulk of her mother’s estate to Dr Shipman. Woodruff was convinced the document was a forgery and that Shipman had murdered her mother, forging the will to benefit from her death. She alerted the local police, where Detective Superintendent Bernard Postles quickly came to the same conclusion on examination of the evidence.Kathleen Grundy’s body was exhumed, and a post-mortem revealed that she had died of a morphine overdose, administered within three hours of her death, precisely within the timeframe of Shipman’s visit to her. Shipman’s home was raided, yielding medical records, an odd collection of jewellery, and an old typewriter which proved to be the instrument upon which Grundy’s forged will had been produced.It was immediately apparent to the police, from the medical records seized, that the case would extend further than the single death in question, and priority was given to those deaths it would be most productive to investigate, namely victims who had not been cremated, and who had died following a home visit by Shipman, which were given priority.Shipman had urged families to cremate their relatives in a large number of cases, stressing that no further investigation of their deaths was necessary, even in instances where these relatives had died of causes previously unknown to the families. In situations where they did raise questions, Shipman would provide computerised medical notes that corroborated his cause of death pronouncements.Police later established that Shipman would, in most cases, alter these medical notes directly after killing the patient, to ensure that his account matched the historical records. What Shipman had failed to grasp was that each alteration of the records would be time stamped by the computer, enabling police to ascertain exactly which records had been altered.Following extensive investigations, which included numerous exhumations and autopsies, the police charged Shipman with 15 individual counts of murder on 7 September 1998, as well as one count of forgery.