Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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


The reason Harold Shipman killed may never be known.  As long as he professes his innocence, the mystery will remain, for this serial killer is unique.

There were no signs of violence, no sexual overtones, no known motive — except for the one exception — and no 'smoking gun'. 

Also, serial killers often like to toy with their victims, to reinforce their self-portrait of power, before they strike.  But Shipman's victims seem to have died peacefully, and in surroundings where they felt safe and comfortable — at home.

Endless, contradictory theories abound.

Some psychoanalysts speculate he hated older women, citing comments he made about the elderly being a drain on the health system. 

Others feel he was re-creating his mother's death scene, in order to satisfy some deep masochistic need.  His belief in his own superiority makes this questionable.

That fact that he left so many indelible clues indicates, some say, that Shipman desperately wanted to be discovered and stopped; that he was fighting a compulsion he simply could not control.

But the consensus seems to be that he felt he was so superior he could do whatever he wanted with no fear of discovery.  Even this seems hard to comprehend — he had already been caught red-handed forging prescriptions and stockpiling drugs when he was hooked on pethedine. 

Perhaps prosecutor Richard Henriques got it right when he said:

 "He was exercising the ultimate power of controlling life and death, and repeated the act so often he must have found the drama of taking life to his taste.'

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