Harold Shipman aka Dr. Death

Harold Shipman aka Dr. Death

Part I

Harold Fredrick Shipman was born in January 14th 1946 and died in January 13th 2004, Shipman was a medical doctor in the United Kingdom, investigations indicated that Shipman was one of the serial killers and took the longest time without detection. It is estimated that Shipman killed more than two hundred and fifty patients in his line of profession (Lakowski, 2012). Shipman was also known as the ‘Dr. Death’ after he was found guilty of his actions. A jury in 2000 acquitted Shipman with a murder of fifteen patients, Shipman was sentenced by the judge to life imprisonment, and it was insisted that Shipman should never leave the prison (Saferstein, 2011). Shipman met his death after he hanged himself in 2004 in West Yorkshire at the Wakefield Prison.

Dame Janet Smith led the Shipman inquiry which was initiated in September 01st 2000 and took two years. The inquiry took a second look at the deaths reported by Shipman in the line of duty (Saferstein, 2011). It was noted that majority of those people who died in the hands of Shipman were women amounting to eighty percent of the deaths with the youngest victim being forty one years old. The acts of Shipman led to the review of the legal structures in medicine and also in the health care in the United Kingdom (Lakowski, 2012). Surveys have indicated that Shipman is the only doctor in the United Kingdom who has been found murdering the patients.

Shipman graduated in 1970 in medicine from the Leeds School of Medicine. He got a job with Pontefract General Infirmary. In 1975, Shipman was found forging pethidine prescriptions for his personal use, an act that led to a fine of six hundred pounds and also sent to him to drug rehabilitation. Shipman in 1974 became a GP (General Practitioner) for years (Saferstein, 2011); in 1993, he founded his own surgery and caught the attention of the immediate community. Surveys indicated that in 1983, Granada television documentary interviewed Shipman on the way to deal with mentally ill patients; the documentary was known as the ‘World in Action’ (Lakowski, 2012). Shipman was apprehended in September 7th 1998. It was noted that Shipman’s patients had high likelihood of death, it was also noted that most of the elderly women, forms were signed by Shipman (Saferstein, 2011). The police were unable to detect the allegations forwarded against Shipman, sufficient evidence was lacking.

Further surveys indicated that The Shipman Inquiry argued that the police had made mistakes in assigned inexperienced police officers in dealing with the case of Shipman. In April 17th 1998 after investigations were abandoned, it was noted that Shipman killed three more patients, a fact that led to his arrest (Lakowski, 2012). The last victim of death on the hands of Shipman was Kathleen Grundy. Most of Shipman’s patients were said to have died of old age, a will written by Grundy indicated that she had left three hundred and eighty six thousand pounds to shipman and not to her children. The authenticity of the will was questionable. Investigations were carried out, the body of Grundy was found with heroine (Diamorphine) which was used in treating pain in patients suffering from terminal cancer.

Part II

The arrest of Shipman happened in September 7th 1998, further investigations found out that he owned a typewriter similar to the one used in drafting the will that was forged (Saferstein, 2011). Police officers went ahead in further investigations, it was noted that Shipman administered overdoses of lethal diamorphine. Shipman signed the death certificates and falsified medical records of the patients which indicated on poor health or old age as the main cause of the deaths (Lakowski, 2012). It is believed that Shipman did his actions basing on the fact that he wanted to retire at age of fifty five years; and that he was ready to be caught since his actions were out of control, Shipman planned to leave United Kingdom after retirement. Shipman’s actions went undetected for years.


Part III

Shipman’s main motive was after earthly riches, this is proved when he killed Grundy and in return drafted a will claiming her investments. (Saferstein, 2011); the second reason for the murders was basing on the fact that Shipman was tired with his career. He also had the spirit of forging documents, in earlier years of operations, he was found in forgery of pethidine prescriptions for his own use, there are high indications that Shipman was a drug addict and that while acting as a medical doctor, to some extent was not in his right of mind (Lakowski, 2012). Shipman was used to the culture of impunity and forgery. It was also noted that Shipman planned to retire and exit United Kingdom to another nation; he had no long term attachment with United Kingdom, a factor that facilitated his actions of murdering innocent patients. The wife to Shipman consistently argued that her husband was innocent.

Part IV

Investigators overlooked the accusations made by the Shipman Inquiry; which was carried out by inexperienced police officers who failed to professionally carry out their duties. At the initial stages, the police officers failed to gather sufficient evidence that could have linked Shipman to the murder of his patients (Saferstein, 2011). The case was different and complex since it was the first one of the kind; the consistency on the death of aged patients treated by Shipman showed that Shipman carried out his mission intelligently.

The evidence could have been enough in convicting Shipman if carried out by experienced police officers. Justice Forbes who was involved in Shipman’ trial in October 5th 1999 sentenced Shipman with murders of fifteen patients between 1995 to 1998 (Lakowski, 2012); Shipman killed his patients by injecting them with lethal diamorphine, Shipman was also convicted of forging a will and offered four more years in jail. All through, Shipman pleaded not guilty and indicated that the scientific evidence was faulty. It was generally concluded that Shipman was responsible for more than two hundred and fifty deaths patients.




Lakowski, J. (2012). Dr. Harold Shipman “Dr. Death” (Famous Serial Killers). Seattle, Washington: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Saferstein, R. (2011). Criminalistics, An Introduction to Forensic Science. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.






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