Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Harold Shipman, the World's Most Prolific Serial Killer

Angela Investigates

Kathleen Grundy, victim
Kathleen Grundy, victim (CAVENDISH PRESS/UK)

Kathleen Grundy's sudden death on June 24th 1998 came as a terrible shock to all who knew her. A singularly active 81-year-old, she was well known to the people of Hyde. A wealthy ex-mayor, she had energy to burn and was a tireless worker for local charities until the day of her death.

Her absence was noted when she failed to show at the Age Concern club.   There, she helped serve meals to elderly pensioners.   Because the wealthy widow was noted for her punctuality and reliability, her friends suspected something was wrong.

The Grundy home
The Grundy home (CAVENDISH PRESS/UK)

When they went to her home to check up on her, they found her lying on a sofa.   She was fully dressed, and dead.

They immediately called Dr. Shipman.

He had visited the house a few hours earlier, and was the last person to see her alive. He claimed the purpose of his visit had been to take blood samples for studies on aging.   Shipman pronounced her dead and the news was conveyed to her daughter, Angela Woodruff.

The doctor told the daughter a post mortem was unnecessary because he had seen her shortly before her death.

Following her mother's burial Ms. Woodruff returned to her home, where she received a troubling phone call from solicitors.   They claimed to have a copy of Ms. Grundy's will.

A solicitor herself, Angela's own firm had always handled her mother's affairs - her firm held the original document lodged in 1986. The moment she saw the badly typed, poorly worded paper, Angela Woodruff knew it was a fake.   It left 386,000 pounds to Dr. Shipman.

"My mother was a meticulously tidy person," she later told the Shipman trial, 'the thought of her signing a document which is so badly typed didn't make any sense.   The signature looked strange, it looked too big.   The concept of Mum signing a document leaving everything to her doctor was unbelievable.'

"It wasn't a case of 'Look, she's not left me anything in her will."' she later said.

Initially, she wondered if Shipman was being framed.   But after interviewing witnesses to the "will," she reluctantly concluded the doctor had murdered her mother for profit.

It was then she went to her local police.   Her investigation results ultimately reached Detective Superintendent Bernard Postles.

His own investigation convinced him Angela Woodruff's conclusions were accurate. Of the forged will itself, Postles was to later say, "You only have to look at it once and you start thinking it's like something off a John Bull printing press.   You don't have to have twenty years as a detective to know it's a fake. Maybe he thought he was being clever — an old lady, nobody around her: Look at it; it's a bit tacky.   But everyone knew she was as sharp as a tack.   Maybe it was his arrogance..."

Now Det. Supt Postles had the oldest motive in the world — greed — to justify his future actions.


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