What happened to former GP Harold Shipman? BBC documentary explores killer

The former GP was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Harold Shipman

Harold Shipman is the focus of BBC Two’s new documentary, The Shipman Files: A Very British Crime Story.

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The three-part doc will take a look at the true story of Harold Shipman and his crimes. He was found guilty of killing 15 of his patients back in 2000, with his total number of victims said to be around 250.

Shipman was sentenced to life imprisonment with the recommendation that he never be released.

Where is he now? And is he still alive? Here’s a biography of Harold Shipman.

Who is Harold Shipman?

Known to his acquaintances as Fred Shipman, Shipman was a general practitioner who was found guilty of murder of 15 patients under his care.

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 took his first position as a general practitioner (GP) at the Abraham Ormerod Medical Centre in Todmorden.

The year after, he was caught forging prescriptions of pethidine (Demerol) for his own use. Shipman was fined £600, and briefly attended a drug rehabilitation clinic in York.

He was fired from his job at Todmorden, however, in 1977, he became a GP at the Donneybrook Medical Centre in Hyde near Manchester.

Shipman continued working as a GP in Hyde throughout the 1980s, and established his own surgery at 21 Market Street in 1993.

In 1998, others became suspicious of Shipman’s behaviour. Prompted by Deborah Massey from Frank Massey and Sons funeral parlour, Linda Reynolds of the Brooke Surgery in Hyde expressed concerns to John Pollard, the coroner for the South Manchester District, about the high death rate among Shipman’s patients.

However, police were unable to find sufficient evidence to bring charges so they closed the case.

The Shipman Inquiry – which was the report produced by a British governmental investigation into the activities of the former GP – later blamed the police for assigning inexperienced officers to the case.

Kathleen Grundy - Shipman's victim
Kathleen Grundy – Shipman’s victim
BBC

Shipman’s last victim was Kathleen Grundy, the mayoress of Hyde, who was found dead at her home in 1998. Shipman was the last person to see her alive and he signed her death certificate recording the cause of death as old age.

However, Grundy’s daughter, lawyer Angela Woodruff, became concerned when the solicitor informed her about her mother’s will, which excluded Woodruff and Grundy’s other children but left £386,000 to Shipman.

Woodruff went to the police, and they began an investigation. Grundy’s body was exhumed and found to contain traces of diamorphine (heroin), often used for pain control in terminal cancer patients.

Shipman claimed Grundy had been an addict, and showed them comments he had written in his computerised medical journal; however, examination of his computer showed that they were written after her death.

Shipman was arrested on 7 September 1998, and a pattern was discovered of the doctor administering lethal doses of diamorphine, signing patients’ death certificates and falsifying medical records to cover his tracks.

The first episode of The Shipman Files: A Very British Crime Story looks at how Shipman’s serial killing was finally uncovered with the death of Ms.Grundy.

Where is Harold Shipman now? Is he still alive?

In 2004, Shipman took his own life in Wakefield Prison the day before his 58th birthday.

Some of the victims’ families said they felt cheated, as Shipman’s suicide meant they were left with unanswered questions about why he committed his crimes.

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The Shipman Files: A Very British Story starts on BBC Two on Monday September 28th at 9pm. Episodes will be spread across the week. If you’re looking for something to watch tonight, check out our TV Guide.