Dr. Harold Shipman hit the headlines in the UK in 1998, when he was arrested on suspicion of the murder of one of the elderly patients he was treating, Kathleen Grundy. Subsequent investigations uncovered many more suspicious deaths, and Shipman was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of the murder of 15 of his patients since he started practicing in Manchester in 1976. Further inquiries since his incarceration have concluded he may have killed up to 250 elderly patients by injecting them with high doses of diamorphine.

Born on January 14, 1946 in Nottingham, UK, Harold Shipman had a relatively normal upbringing on one of the local council estates. He gained a place at the local grammar school and went on to attend Leeds University in 1965. A year later, on November 5 1966, at the age of 20, he married 17-year-old window dresser Primrose Oxtoby, the daughter of a council worker from Wetherby, North Yorkshire.

Shipman graduated from the University as a doctor of medicine in 1970, which gained him a place at Pontefract General Infirmary. Within two years he earned a diploma in child health, but soon tired of hospital life. Two years after this, he began work in the Abraham Ormerod medical centre in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, the surgery where his troubles began.

As newly qualified GP, Shipman started supplying young partygoers with amphetamines. He also started injecting himself with large amounts of the morphine-like drug, pethedine, and when he had trouble obtaining the amounts he required, he started fiddling patients prescriptions. The doses he was taking occasionally caused him to have blackouts, which was soon noticed by fellow GP’s. They noticed the discrepancies in the prescriptions and Shipman was hauled up in front of the GMC.

In November 1975, Shipman was charged with three offences of obtaining a controlled drug by deception, three of unlawful possession of a controlled drug and two of forging declarations of exemption from prescription charges. He was fined £600 and ordered to pay £57.78 to the NHS in compensation. He was sacked from the Todmorden surgery and moved away from the area, but he wasn’t struck off the doctors register.

He briefly practiced in County Durham, where he became a clinical medical officer at the now defunct South-west Durham health authority, but was there for only three weeks before moving to Donnebrook House medical practice in Hyde, Greater Manchester in 1977.

He practiced there for 14 years before tensions between Shipman and his colleagues caused him to move out and set up a one-man practice at his own premises at 21 Market Street, Hyde. It was during this time he was found to have murdered several of his patients, with large intravenous doses of diamorphine – commonly known as heroin. It was only when he was found to be backdating the medical records of his victims to show symptoms he was 'treating' with his injections, and in one case attempting to forge a will. It was this final, careless act that aroused the suspicions of the daughter of his last victim, Kathleen Grundy, who reported the forgery to the police.

On 7 September 1998, Shipman's was arrested and charged with murder. The initial investigation uncovered a multitude of other killings and a case was put against charging him with the murder of 15 women over a period of three years. This figure made him the biggest convicted serial killer in the UK in recent history. He was jailed for life in January 2000 at Preston crown court. Current estimates think that, between 1974 and 1998, Shipman may have killed up to 236 of his patients, making him one of the world's biggest serial killers, but due to the huge amount of publicity surrounding his case making it impossible to hold a fair trial.

Updated 19/07/02

The official report into the Shipman murders concluded that the Doctor was responsible for at least 215 murders since 1975, with the possibility that he could have taken the lives of another 45 of his patients but there wasn't enough evidence to be certain. this makes the Harold Shipman the most prolific mass murderer Britain has ever seen.

Updated 13/01/04

At 6.20am Dr. Harold Shipman was discovered hanging in his cell at Wakefield Prison. He was declared dead at 8.10am. He never publicly expressed any remorse for the lives he took.

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