Doctors are professionals who swear to care for and treat their patients. They save lives, give hope, investigate diseases; some are even considered saints who walk the earth.
But some, instead of saving lives, put them out. This is the story of a doctor who heads the list of the most prolific serial killers in the United Kingdom: Harold Shipman, “Doctor Death.”
Shipman was born on January 14, 1946 into a Methodist family. His childhood was normal with his three brothers; his father, a truck driver, and his mother, dedicated to taking care of the children.
At the age of 17, his mother fell ill with lung cancer, an illness that, in addition to causing great agony, marked the young Shipman, who was responsible for providing him with the necessary care. During that stage he witnessed how the only drug that helped her was morphine injections to calm her pain.
After the death of his mother he dedicated himself to playing rugby, which opened the doors to the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Leeds. Later, he was considered a doctor who treated his patients affably and closely, mostly middle-aged women.
We take a moment to delve into the British health system, which allowed him to kill almost without being noticed. In this system, the family doctor is one of its bases: he visits and cares for the sick at home, knows the family histories, and patients are referred to hospitals only if necessary. That gave him great freedom of movement.
In 1974 he was arrested while trying to buy morphine with a patient’s prescription. They ordered him to rehabilitate, and then he… started killing. In 1975, his first victim, Eva Lyons, appeared.
The murderer almost always operated in the same way. Most of his victims were women he didn’t like. He murdered them in the afternoons and did not allow anyone to be there when he attended to them. He killed them by injecting them with lethal doses of morphine. When notifying the death, he wrote the death certificate.
He murdered routinely until 1992. When there was an increase in deaths under his care he raised suspicions from a colleague and was reported. But the case was considered a rumor.
Their luck changed on June 24, 1998, when 81-year-old Kathleen Grundy died. Her death may have gone unnoticed, but Shipman had falsified Grundy’s will, disinheriting her daughter, a lawyer who, shocked, asked that her death be investigated. The autopsy revealed everything.
On September 7, 1998, Shipman was arrested and on October 5, 1999, a trial began for 15 deaths that occurred between 1995 and 1997. On January 31, 2000, he was found guilty and sentenced to 15 life sentences.
The investigations continued and on July 19, 2002, “Doctor Death” was accused of murdering at least 215 patients since 1975. The number could reach 260 victims.
Shipman committed suicide in his cell on January 13, 2004.
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