Also see BBC Report

'Death rates soared in the afternoon when he made his home visits'

The ghoulish statistics of the doctor who took pleasure in ending lives
By Dave Brown -
The Independent, 07 January 2001

Harold Shipman
Harold Shipman was convicted last year of murdering 15 female patients between March 1995 and June 1998 while working at a practice in Hyde, Greater Manchester. Investigators believe the death toll could be as high as 345.

During his 24-year career the popular family GP certified 521 deaths, 499 while working in a group practice in Hyde. The next highest number of death certificates issued by any of the other six Hyde GPs was just 210.

He joined a practice in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, in 1974 and in his first 10 months issued just five death certificates. But in the following nine months he certified 17 deaths - all but one of them died at home. Sixty-five per cent of the deaths were female patients, compared with 36 per cent elsewhere.

Six patients died at his surgery in Cross Street, Hyde - including 82-year-old Jean Harding in 1994 and Bertha Moss the following year - compared with two in the surgeries of other GPs. Shipman was present at the deaths of a fifth of his patients, compared with 0.8 per cent for other GPs.

Death occurred within 30 minutes for 60 per cent of Shipman's patients, compared with less than a quarter for patients of other GPs. And Shipman was likely to have visited the patient within the previous two days, his peers not within four days.

Investigators suspect that his first named victim was 76-year-old Mary Winterbottom, who was found "dead on bed" by Shipman on 21 September 1984. He recorded the cause of death as a coronary thrombosis, but Mrs Winterbottom's family now want it classified as an "unlawful killing". Later in the same day Shipman is believed to have claimed his second victim, Eileen Cox, 72, who died at her home in Hunters Court, Dunkfield.

Over the following five years he is suspected of killing six named patients. But in 1993 this rose to nine, and in 1994 there were eight. The death toll continued to rise, with 14 in 1995, 20 the following year and 23 in 1997.

Of the 107 confirmed and named suspected victims just eight were men. The first named suspected male victim, 81-year-old John Molesdale, died in December 1994. (The Shipman Inquiry later found that John was not the first male victim.) Half of the suspected male victims died during a five-month period between August and December 1996.

Records of the excess deaths among Shipman's patients at his surgery or in their homes show that women over 75 were more then three times more likely to die than men of the same age.

Shipman's patients were seven times more likely to die between 2pm and 4pm than those of other GPs. Death rates among his patients were lower than normal during the night and morning but soared during the early afternoon when Shipman made his home visits.

Shipman oldest identified suspected victim was 92-year-old Hilda Couzens who died in February 1993. His youngest named suspected victim was 42-year-old Konrad Robinson who died in November 1996. The youngest female victim was Renata Overton, 47, who had died in April the previous year.

At least seven of the victims were residents of Ogden Court sheltered housing block, which was close to his surgery. Alice Prestwick, 69, died in October 1988, followed by 81-year-old John Charlton 12 months later. Alice Kennedy, 88, died in January 1995, and 87-year-old Muriel Ward died in October of that year. Gladys Saunders died in June 1996 and James King, 83, on Christmas Eve 1997. Shipman's final victim may have been 69-year-old Mary Alice Prestwich - in October 1998.

Also see BBC Report

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