Dr Death, more commonly known as Harold Shipman, still remains one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers to this day, after murdering hundreds of innocent people in one of the most obscure ways imaginable.
From the outside he seemed like a loving and caring physician, a family man that was loyal to his patients, but deep down lay a murderous killer with a much darker side.
Although an official number can not be clarified, it’s believed Shipman killed as many as 250 innocent people over the course of his career from 1970 until 1998 when he was finally arrested, by injecting them with lethal doses of painkillers.
Building the trust of his patients, the cunning man would inject patients – commonly the elderly – with a lethal dose of diamorphine, a painkiller twice the strength of morphine.
The potent drug would cause patients to stop breathing, cutting off their oxygen and causing them to die within minutes of it being administered.
Covering up his crime, Shipman would claim their death was simply a cause of old age, which for many years was a convincing explanation for loved ones of the deceased.
However, the suspicious deaths began to concern others in the medical profession including a funeral director and fellow doctor Susan Booth, who had noticed the flurry of patients dying in the doctors hands were all left fully clothes, sitting up, or reclining on a couch when they died.
This year in an ITV documentary marking the 20th anniversary of the serial killer’s arrest, nurse Sandra Whitehead also spoke out about the unusual events witnessed in a hospital where Shipman once worked.
“It just seemed a high proportion of deaths out of a 32-bed ward. I think I was too young and too naive, I didn’t have the knowledge and experience to maybe turn around and see senior management and say, ‘I am not happy about this’.”
While an investigation was launched following the initial accusations, the doctor was cleared and continued on his devious killing spree, unbeknown to many who still considered him a trustworthy professional.
It wasn’t until 1998 when Angela Woodruff, the daughter of one of his victims, pushed for more evidence on her mother’s death – who she said had been an active and healthy 81-year-old.
Following thorough investigations, which included exhumations and autopsies, the serial killer was charged with 15 counts of murder and one count of forgery and sentenced to life in prison.
It was here his drug addiction and hoarding was brought into the spotlight, uncovering how he was allowed to remain practicing and keep his doctor’s licence after investigations in the 1970s.
Speaking to The Sun earlier this year, retired West Yorkshire detective George McKeating revealed his involvement in the drug squad which examined Shipman in 1975.
Just before the police planned to arrest the doctor, he checked himself into rehab which McKeating explained was his way of trying to outsmart them.
“He’d sussed we were on to him. I’m sure of that. He thought because he was in rehab we couldn’t do anything,” the former police officer said.
At the trial’s end in 2000, the serial killer was sentenced to life in prison, with the plethora of other murders revealed over time.
However it didn’t end there with Ray Rowett, head of operations at Wakefield Prison, stating in the documentary that prison staff feared Shipman would kill again.
“It looked as though they had been talking to Shipman. We obviously then thought we was changing his modus operandi and that he could probably have a hand in those two going to intensive care.”
The truth behind the illness was never uncovered and in January of 2004, the serial killer was found dead hanging in his prison cell – his killing spree had come to an end.