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A serial killer is a person who murders more than two or three people. And so one of the biggest serial killers in the world is Dr. Harold Shipman, the British serial killer who has killed over 200 people, who are his patients. Doctor by profession, he is known among the worst serial killers in recorded history. Serial killers are survivors of early childhood trauma, abuse, distance from parents, and family dysfunction. So what life did Harold Shipman serial killer survive? What was his motive?

The early life of Harold Shipman

Harold Frederick Shipman was born on January 14th, 1946, in Nottingham, England. He was born the middle child of a working-class family. He was the favorite child of his mother, Vera. She raised him with a feeling of superiority from an early age and so he was living his life in isolation with only a few friends. 

The early life of Harold Shipman

When he was 17 years, his life changed, because his mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. While she was lying dying in the hospital, the doctor eased her suffering by administrating morphine to her.  Shipman observed closely how he did it. And on June 21, 1963, she passed away. And he was devastated by her death. 

He intended to go to medical school and was admitted to Leeds University medical school for training. He failed his entrance exam for the first time but then later managed to get in.

At the age of 19, he met his future wife, Primrose May Oxtoby. And when she was 17-years-old, they got married. He then became a father of four children, and he lead a normal life. 

The start of his forgery

The start of his forgery

In 1970, he graduated and commenced life as a junior doctor, moved up ranks, and became a general practitioner at a medical center in West Yorkshire. But it was the time, he got caught by his medical colleague for forging prescriptions for large amounts of drugs. He was fined and forced to leave the practice. And he was made to attend a rehabilitation clinic in York.

After a few years in 1977, Harold Shipman was accepted onto staff at Donnybrook medical Centre in Hyde. There he portrayed himself as a hardworking doctor and gave a feeling to others that he enjoyed the trust of his patients and colleagues, although the Junior staff found him to be arrogant. He spent the next 15 years of his career and in 1993, he set up a one-man practice.

Start of Harold Shipman serial killer

In March 1975, he killed 70-year-old Eva Lyons, and it was on the day before her birthday. It was his first murder. And then onwards he started continuing to murder every patient who came to him. Dr. Harold Shipman’s patients were dying at an unusually high rate in similar ways, where the patients were fully clothed and usually sit up or recline on a settee. And this was noticed by the local undertaker. But when asked about it, Harold Shipman convinced him that there was nothing to concern about. 

Start of Harold Shipman serial killer

But it did not go smoothly, because a colleague of Harold Shipman, called Dr. Susa Booth, found the same similarities and alerted the local coroner’s office. 

An investigation went on. But Shipman’s record seemed to appear in order and so he was cleared. They failed to check the criminal records and the general medical council to find the previous records and evidence. 

Harold took advantage of his status by showing himself as a caring family doctor. Therefore it was not possible to find exactly the beginning of his killings, and the exact number of patients who died. Later, thorough investigations went on to reveal that Harold Shipman had altered the medical records of his patients to corroborate the causes of death. 

The murder that exposed him 

On June 24, 1998, an active and wealthy 81-year-old woman, Kathleen Grundy was found dead in her home. It was found that before her death, she had visited Shipman. Kathleen’s daughter Angela Woodruff was a lawyer and handled her mother’s affairs. She was advised by Harold that an autopsy was not required and so Kathleen was buried according to her daughter’s wish. 

But later she discovered something wrong with her mother’s death. She found that document was a forgery and Shipman had murdered her mother

Angela Woodruff refused to accept the explanations given for the death of her mother and she alerted the police so they came to the same conclusion after examining the evidence. They took out Kathleen’s body and the post-mortem revealed that she died of a morphine overdose which was given to her three hours after her death. 

The end of Harold Shipman murders

The end of Harold Shipman

The police raided Shipman’s house and found the medical records, the odd collection of jewelry, and an old typewriter that produced the forge of him. Through them they priority to the other deaths that occurred. They investigated the deaths of the patients who had died following a home visit by Shipman. It was found that Harold Shipman had urged the victims’ families to cremate them and stressed no further investigations of their death. 

When the victims’ families were confused about the death, and when they raised questions about it, Shipman would provide computerized medical notes. The police managed to verify 14 other cases that falsely registered the death of the patients. 

Harold did not cooperate with the police or criminal psychiatrists and denied the murders. Police were only able to charge Shipman with 15 murders. But they estimated a kill count between 250 to 450. They examined the records of 500 patients who died while under his care, and some reports concluded that he could have at least killed 218 of his patients. They speculated that Shipman might have gotten addicted to killing and the lack of experience in the investigating officers resulted in missing the opportunities to bring Shipman to justice earlier. 

In 2000, he was given life imprisonment and was recommended to never be released. He took up his life in Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire hanging in his cell on the day before his birthday on January 13th, 2004. The probation officer told that Harold was thinking to commit suicide so that his wife would receive his pension and lump sum. A number of theories have been put to explain the reason for his killings, but nothing was proven. 

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