Harold Shipman C4 News 2001

The Shipman Files: A Very British Crime Story explores Harold Shipman’s murders

Harold Shipman killed at least 15 patients while working as a GP

Harold Shipman and his horrific crimes are the focus of The Shipman Files: A Very British Crime Story.

The first of three parts, which aired tonight on BBC2, recounts the sinister true story of the serial killer.

Chris Wilson is a documentary film-maker who looks into the “haunting” story of Shipman and his victims.

So how did Harold Shipman manage to get away with murder for so long?

The Shipman Files, Harold Shipman victims
Three of Harold Shipman’s victims: Ada Warburton, Marie Quinn and Kathleen Grundy (Credit: BBC)

Read more: When is Honour on ITV and is it based on a true story?

Who was Harold Shipman?

Harold Shipman studied medicine at Leeds School of Medicine, and graduated in 1970.

He began working at Pontefract General Infirmary in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, and in 1974 started work as a GP at the Abraham Ormerod Medical Centre in Todmorden.

Mr Shipman went on to work as a GP in Manchester, before getting his own practice.

The popular family GP began murdering elderly patients.

His nickname was “Dr Death” by his patients because of his high death rate, but other patients defended him calling it a “witch hunt”.

How many people did Harold Shipman kill?

Harold Shipman killed at least 15 men and women over the course of his 20-year career.

Harold murdered at least 250 victims, according to the police.

He remains the UK’s most prolific serial killer.

The Shipman Files
The relatives of victim George Fisher, Susan Plant and Sylvia Fisher, appear in the documentary (Credit: BBC)

How was Harold Shipman caught?

Kathleen Grundy was Shipman’s last victim.

The former mayoress of Hyde died at her home in 1998 at the age of 81.

Shipman was the last person to see her alive and he signed her death certificate recording the cause of death as old age.

Read more: The Shipman Files on BBC2: What did Harold Shipman do?

She had left £386,000 to Shipman in a hastily written will, causing her daughter Angela to report him to the police.

The badly-typed new will read: “I give all my estate, money and house to my doctor. I want to reward him for all the care he has given to me and the people of Hyde. My doctor is Harold Shipman.”

The will aroused the suspicions of the family and the police, who investigated her death with a post-mortem.

Grundy’s body, when exhumed, contained traces of diamorphine (heroin).

The police noticed a grisly pattern with Harold’s victims.

The victims were all found in the afternoon, fully dressed, sat in a chair, with their doors open.

When was Harold Shipman caught?

In 1998, the high death rate among Shipman’s patients started raising alarm bells among the community.

He was arrested on 7 September 1998 after Kathleen Grundy’s death.

Harold was charged with 15 counts of murder, and one of forgery.

He was convicted of all the crimes, following a trial at Preston Crown Court in October 1999.

The Shipman Files: A Very British Crime Story
The Shipman Files: A Very British Crime Story airs this week over three nights (Credit: BBC)

How did Harold Shipman get away with murder for so long?

Harold chose older victims, so the murders wouldn’t get detected.

The deaths appeared unremarkable at first.

His victims were mostly elderly women, who died quietly in their own homes.

The victims, although old, would not have died if Harold hadn’t killed them as there was nothing wrong with them.

Chris Wilson believes people’s attitudes to old age is the reason Harold got away with murder for so long.

Harold was investigated earlier in 1998 because of his high death count.

The case was dropped because of insignificant evidence.

Where is Harold Shipman now?

Harold was sentenced to jail for life in 2000, never to be released.

Harold Shipman hung himself in his prison cell, the day before his 58th birthday.

He committed suicide on 13 January 2004 in HMP Wakefield.

His victims lost their chance to get answers about why he committed the crimes.

What was The Shipman Inquiry?

The Shipman Inquiry investigated the activities of the former GP.

It blamed the police for putting inexperienced officers on the original case.

Was Harold Shipman married?

Harold Shipman married Primrose Shipman.

Harold and Primrose had four children together.

Primrose denied Shipman’s guilt throughout the trial.

She received his pension after his death.

Was Harold Shipman the only serial killer in Hyde?

Myra Hindley and Ian Brady killed their last victim in Hyde.

The infamous murderers lived not far from Harold Shipman’s GP practice.

The Shipman Files: A Very British Story continues on BBC Two on Tuesday 29 September and Wednesday 30 September at 9pm

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Helen Fear
TV Editor