Manchester Family practitioner Harold Shipman has become the focus of Europe's biggest murder investigation: he is suspected of killing more than 116 patients over 14 years. Dr. Death -- as he is known by British media -- was linked to 77 killings after police charged him with six murders and started investigating other suspicious deaths surrounding his medical practice.
As of now nine bodies have been exhumed. Police are checking the bodies for lethal dosages of drugs. To avoid publicity and crowds, police have been performing the exhumations at night, witnessed by a priest. All the exhumations have recovered the remains of female patients ranging in age from 49 to 81. In 49 of the cases, Dr Shipman's patients opted for cremation, forcing investigators to make deductions from the patients' medical records and from their families' evidence.
The investigation into Dr Shipman's practice began after relatives of Kathleen Grundy, 81, a former mayoress and respected charity worker from Hyde, near Manchester, discovered that she had left nothing in her will to her two sons and her daughter. Dr Shipman is charged with falsely obtaining cash and possessions worth the equivalent of R3,2-million from Mrs Grundy's estate.
London Police exhumed a sixth bodyin the case of a doctor suspected of killing up to 28 of his patients for their money. Dr Harold Shipman has already been charged with killing four patients and forging the will of one, a former mayoress in his hometown of Hyde, near Manchester.
Police said after Shipman,52, was charged with the first murder that he may have claimed another 27 victims, all former patients. The bearded, grey-haired doctor wept when he appeared again in court and charged with three more murders.
A spokesperson for Greater Manchester police said the body of Marie Quinn (67), who died in November last year, was exhumed yesterday and a new postmortem would be carried out. She would not confirm reports that police expected to exhume yet another body in the next few days on the Mediterranean island of Malta.
Shipman had provided death certificates giving plausible causes of death for his alleged victims, most of whom were elderly. He had practised as a family doctor in Hyde for more than 20 years and police are now reported to be investigating up to 3 000 prescriptions that he wrote.
"He is the dullest serial killer I have ever met," a spokesman for the Greater Manchester Police said. "He certainly doesn't act like a murderer." This is the sentiment echoed by almost everyone who has come into contact with Harold Shipman, the quiet, unassuming, solicitous doctor who stands accused of being one of Britain's most prolific killers of modern times.
Dr Shipman was charged with another seven murders of his patients, bringing the total to 15. It is reported that a total of 150 cases are being investigated, although the Greater Manchester Police remain tight-lipped, rigidly enforcing subjudice laws. They refused to "enter into speculation about more charges or whether a line will be drawn here". All of the deaths were sudden. All of these vulnerable elderly women died within an hour of a house call from their doctor, who was convicted of administering them fatal injections of diamorphine, the medical name for heroin. After their deaths the good doctor fabricated the cause of death on the death certificates.
Statistics expert Professor Richard Baker believes British doctor Harold Shipman may have killed between 200 to 300 of his patients. A report authored by Professor Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England and Wales,
Everything points to the fact that a doctor with the sinister and macabre motivation of Harold Shipman is a once in a lifetime occurrence compared the pattern of deaths at both his former practice in Hyde, Greater Manchester, and his first practice in Todmorden, Yorkshire, with other similar practices showing that there were 345 extra deaths when Shipman's records were compared with normal practice at similar surgeries.
However, more detailed analysis of the circumstances surrounding each death means that the probable figure is 236 - as these were the patients who died at home. Researchers at the University of Leicester, took into account factors such as time of death, and whether relatives or Dr Shipman himself were present. For example, many of Shipman's patients appear to have died in the afternoon, which is also unusual.
Professor Baker told the BBC: "I am only presenting circumstantial evidence - this was not a forensic investigation. There were a lot of cases about which there was a reason for concern."
After reviewing all the evidence and his own records, the police and other investigating authorities said they suspected he had killed as many as 192. The latest research looked at the years 1974 to 1998, to calculate the number of what the study termed "excess deaths". Between 1985 and 1998, Professor Baker's analysis suggested that more than half of 288 documented deaths under Shipman's care were "highly suspicious". Another 14% were "moderately suspicious", he said.