The doctor who killed more than 200 patients and a murder case

  When I think of the town of Hyde in Manchester , my heart will give birth to a warm feeling. My mother grew up here, as do her family and friends. As a child, it was a happy travel destination and a pilgrimage of my life, as my mother is buried here.
  I am glad to think of the old ladies in Hyde—my grandmother and aunt—who are very different from the withdrawn, malnourished old people I sometimes see. They always welcomed me warmly with open arms and pulled me into their busy lives and clean home. At the same time, they are clearly an inherent part of this wider community.
Serial killer who specializes in killing older women

  In 1998, I got a call from a defense attorney asking me to do a second autopsy on a woman from Hyde. Mrs. Catherine Grundy was a friend of my mother’s family and a classmate of my aunt. She died on June 24th and was buried in my mother’s cemetery on July 1st.
  However, her body was exhumed in August and I am now standing in the morgue at Tameside General Hospital looking at her body.
  Mrs Grundy, who was 81 years old, appeared to be in very good health. And, unusually for someone her age or even a generation younger than her, her arteries showed only mild atherosclerosis.
  Toxicology testing tells another story. While I couldn’t find an injection site on her, she was apparently given a large dose of morphine or diacetylmorphine in the hours before her death. So I gave the cause of death: morphine overdose.
  In fact, Mrs. Grundy died at the hands of her trusted family doctor, and it was because of her sudden death that Harold Shipman’s serial killer identity was finally discovered. This person is highly regarded by patients and highly regarded in that community. I still remember how much he was liked. Many say he is the best doctor in the area. Shipman was especially popular with older people because he was happy to visit and worked at Hyde for a while. He started his own clinic in 1992, and word of mouth has made him popular with his patients.
  Mrs Catherine Grundy’s sudden death has raised suspicions about Mrs Grundy’s will just days earlier, which would benefit her GP. Shipman gave her cause of death as “debilitating old age”.
  And then more investigations, more coffins. I attended five of those autopsies. The second body I saw was a 73-year-old with very mild coronary heart disease and emphysema. Shipman claimed on her death certificate that she had pneumonia. But she could not have pneumonia, but there were signs of morphine poisoning. The next corpse was the same. All the dead have the same cause of death.

Legendary British forensic physician Richard Sheppard.

  It is unbelievable that a family doctor killed six of his own patients. In a letter written after the fact, I stated:
  ”It is clear that the source of the morphine must be identified, and the possibility of contamination must also be considered… Given the interval between the date of death and the date of the post-mortem, and the numerous events surrounding these bodies and action, the possibility of contamination must be absolutely ruled out… I would recommend consulting a chemist to see if the chemicals used in the production of embalming fluids, in the manufacture of coffin sheets or coffins may be buried with morphine-containing chemicals Material contamination… Finally, the possibility of other connections between the corpses should also be investigated (embalists, morticians, staff).
  Of course, I think all other possibilities should be investigated, not only because I’m a pathologist hired by Shipman’s defense team (yes, serial killers are entitled to defense too), but also because I, or we, don’t Would like to believe that doctors will systematically kill patients. When Shipman was imprisoned a few years later for the murder of no fewer than 15 patients, it was difficult to accept the conclusion of Dame Janet Smith’s public inquiry: over 20 years, he had undoubtedly killed 215 people, and several others. It is impossible to find out the truth in hundreds of cases at this stage.
  Shipman’s reason for the killing is unclear. Typically, the victims are living alone. Typically, the victims are older women, but not always. It is hoped that Shipman will finally be able to say why he did it—perhaps confirming how many of the 494 deaths that occurred among his patients were due to him. Hopes were dashed a few years later, in 2004, when Shipman was found hanging himself in his cell.
  After the burial and the autopsy, Hyde’s impression in my mind changed. I can no longer associate this place with my mother’s warm family and vibrant old ladies, instead it is the place where the elderly women died at the hands of the serial killer they once trusted so much in the person who took care of them.
Did she inflict the wound on her body?

  On my return to London from the excavation site, the unpleasant experience ensued: I had to go head-to-head with my former boss, Ian West. We are fundamentally divided: not by meeting face-to-face, but by writing strongly-worded, opposing reports. Before the incident, the couple were negotiating a divorce and had a heated argument over who their two young sons should live with. The two lived well, with a large and well-managed house. The father desperately wanted the two children, and the family court was about to start. They still live under one roof, but the mother has rented a property for herself and the children and will soon be moving out of the home.
  On the day of his death, the father took time off work to hang out with the children. As his mother waved goodbye to them, he suddenly pulled up in the driveway, walked into the house, and motioned for her to follow him. Thinking he had forgotten something, she followed him into the house. The father closed the door behind them and announced that he wanted the children to live with him.
  The next argument, according to the wife’s statement, was: I said, “But, you’re going to work, what are you going to do?” He said, “I’m quitting my job. I’m taking care of my kids.” I said, “Oh , no, you can’t do it.”

  The wife went on to describe her husband’s anger. The way his jaw twisted was a telltale sign: she remembered the last time she had been beaten by him. She couldn’t explain how the two had come from the hallway to the kitchen:
  but what happened next was that I was standing behind the kitchen and he beat me in the stomach. He started punching me in the stomach, I thought he was hitting me, but when I looked down I saw a green handle and he wasn’t hitting me, he was stabbing me.
  I said, “What are you doing, you’re killing me!” Then he pulled the knife out of my stomach and started slashing it towards my neck. He wanted to cut my throat. He wanted to cut an artery in my throat and let me die…
  I said to him, “For God’s sake, you want to kill me, think about my son…don’t, don’t kill me, think about my son…you can Take the kids…take the kids, please don’t kill me.”
  I didn’t expect him to get another knife or something, but then he started kicking me. He hit my head on the floor. I have bruises here and he broke one of my teeth. He hit me repeatedly and grabbed a chair in the kitchen and he hit me with the chair and I was like, oh my God, he’s not going to stop until I’m beaten to death. I was dying, and I was covered in wounds. I am covered in blood. I felt like I, I, was bathed in blood.
  He didn’t say anything, just put the knife to my neck and I had to take the knife out of his hand… He strangled me there and cut the knife into my neck and I grabbed it with my right hand The handle or the blade or whatever, and I just held on to it… There was blood everywhere, on the walls and on the floor.
  I have, have, snatched the knife off with my right hand, so I swung it around. I either stabbed forward or swung left and right… I must have slipped or I was lying on the ground shaking with the knife…
  Is she telling the truth? Or, did she kill him and then injure herself to prove that he attacked her? The husband was rushed to the hospital, where doctors attempted extensive heart surgery. The surgery was ultimately unsuccessful and, of course, it was the wound to the heart that proved fatal. On the surface, though, his injuries were not as serious as his wife’s, and I didn’t see her or examine her injuries in person, but saw a lot of pictures of her wounds. I’m looking for scars of self-injury, a sign that a murderer intends to plead in self-defense.
  Pathologists often have to distinguish between homicide and suicide, accidental and intentional injury. Knife wounds are an area where counterfeiters can navigate: they look so terrifying that an inexperienced person immediately believes at first glance that no one would do this to them. However, I have learned over the years that people do almost anything to avoid being charged with murder. Self-injury is usually identifiable, people aim to use the least force for maximum effect, self-injury obviously always occurs in parts of the body that are easily reached by one’s own hands. Harm that cannot be self-inflicted is also recognizable, so I am sometimes happy to help innocent people from assault charges.
  The Crown Prosecution Service has held several meetings on the case. When the late husband’s family found out that his wife might not be charged, they angrily discussed whether to file a private prosecution. They hired Ian to write a report, and when I got back from Manchester, his report was on my desk. The wording of the report is thunderous: … the general condition of the wound is consistent with self-injury.
  I agree that the wife was attacked with blunt force but disagree that the stab wound was self-inflicted. I give several reasons.
  First, when she was stabbed in the abdomen, she described it as feeling like a punch, not a cut or stab at all. This is a very common misconception among people who have been stabbed. I’ve heard victims time and time again that they only felt a punch, not the penetrating power of the knife itself. It’s true, but it’s not the kind of fact that the wife could have known.
  Second, while it is possible that she could have wounds in her neck and abdomen on her own, it would be very difficult and unusual for someone to injure the back of one elbow and the back of the other.
  Third, and most importantly, the husband’s injuries, three of the four stab wounds or cuts on his body were on non-lethal parts of his body. The unusual stab wound in the leg does suggest that his wife was on the floor when the stab wound formed, or that she was in a low position anyway. The fatal wound to the heart may have been intentional, but in the context of the struggle for control of the knife, I find it impossible to rule out a reasonable doubt that the wound could have been accidental. Judging from the wife’s blunt force injury, there must have been a very serious fight.
  Therefore, despite the doubts and contradictions in this case, as an expert witness, I cannot confirm beyond reasonable doubt that the fatal stabbing of the husband was intentional or that the injury to the wife was self-inflicted. Even combining the possibilities from a lesser culpability perspective, I feel that the husband, not the wife, caused the trauma on the latter.
  The Crown Prosecution Service decided it was not in the public interest, and indeed the financial interest, to pursue the case. The coroner, aware of the very angry family members of the victims sitting in the courtroom, asked for the inquest to be carried out in the presence of the police. Ian did not make a statement on the spot, though, of course, his report was mentioned. My testimony was interrupted at times by angry cries and jeers. The coroner called for silence more than once.
  My opinion was confirmed when the coroner made a finding of justifiable homicide. After the sentence was pronounced, there was silence for a while, before the courtroom fell into a commotion.