Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Litany of Lies

By now, the trial had gained a momentum that is characteristic, where evidence follows a set pattern over and over. Although the Kathleen Grundy case had taken over a week, those to follow would progress more quickly.

What speeded up the trial were emerging characteristics, among them the ambulance-telephone scam. Here, Shipman would pretend to call emergency services.  But when he "discovered" a patient dead, he would pick up the phone and pretend to cancel the ambulance.

Lizzie Adams, victim
Lizzie Adams, victim (CAVENDISH PRESS/UK)

One sad example of this ruse involved a vibrant 77-year-old, Lizzie Adams.

She loved dancing with her dance partner, William Catlow — She played Ginger to his Fred. William dropped in to visit Lizzie the day she died.

When he arrived, he found Shipman examining her impressive collection of porcelains and crystal. In the next room, Lizzie lay dying. 

Catlow told the court, "I just burst past him...she felt warm. I said, 'I can feel her pulse.'" 

Shipman said, "No, that's yours.  I will cancel the ambulance."  

But telephone records proved Shipman never phoned the ambulance service that day.

In another case, that of Nora Nuttall, her son Anthony told how he had left his mother alone for just 20 minutes.  He returned to find Dr. Shipman leaving their house. 'I asked him what was wrong.  He said "I have rung an ambulance for her."  I ran in and... she looked like she was asleep in the chair.  I took her by the hands and shook her, saying, "Mum, Mum..."'

Shortly after, Shipman merely touched her neck and told the son, "I'm sorry, she has gone."

Tales of phone calls the doctor never made continued.

Norah Nuttall's sister went to Shipman's office to examine the dead woman's records — she wanted details of her sister's death.

Annoyed, Shipman addressed his staff: "I knew it would happen, I told you it would happen."

Quickly, he fabricated a story of how Norah had called his office to say she was ill.  Shipman then claimed he'd been paged and just happened to be nearby.  When telephone records proved him wrong, Shipman quickly fabricated a new story.

But he outdid himself with the tale of the missing blood samples. His reason for visiting his last victim, Kathleen Grundy, was allegedly to collect blood samples for a study on aging. When asked what had happened to them, he initially said they had gone for analysis.

When the prosecution proved there was no study on aging, he suddenly "remembered" what happened.  He had left the samples under a pile of notes, and, as they were no longer useful he disposed of them.

With each new revelation his credibility sank.

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