New ITV documentary speaks to detectives involved in shocking case of ’Dr Death’ Harold Shipman

David Prior's picture
by David Prior

A new ITV documentary will look into how Dr Harold Shipman got away with poisoning and murdering more than 250 of his patients across three decades.

On the 20th anniversary of his arrest, former detectives from Greater Manchester Police will give their vivid insights into a case which shocked the nation.

They reveal the tactics they used to bring the man they called ‘Dr Death’ to justice, the mistakes Shipman made and the emotional toll the case had on officers and the local community.

Shipman, a well respected family doctor from Hyde in Greater Manchester, was initially arrested for the murder of one of his patients, 81-year-old Kathleen Grundy, in September 1998.

Detectives explain how the scale of the investigation quickly escalated - a local newspaper identified other patients of Shipman who had died in suspicious circumstances, and national TV crews soon descended on Hyde.

Former detective chief superintendent Bernard Postles said: “To start off with we were investigating one death - the death of Kathleen Grundy. Within a couple of weeks that grew to seventeen deaths and again within a very short period of time it grew to sixty-two deaths.”

The documentary features video and audio tapes of the police’s interrogation of Shipman.

A broken key on a typewriter seized from Shipman’s surgery and a forensic analysis of his computer showing he had tampered with the medical records of patients offered vital evidence. But with no witnesses, no crime scene or murder weapon, the hard evidence of Shipman’s murderous method was buried in the crematories of Hyde.

Greater Manchester Police took the unprecedented step of ordering the exhumation of the bodies of Kathleen Grundy and 11 other victims, and forensic tests showed that the victims had been injected with lethal levels of the painkiller diamorphine. It was the final piece of evidence the detectives needed. Shipman was charged with 15 murders and found guilty on all counts after a trial lasting 57 days.

Officers knew that Shipman was responsible for many more. The day after his conviction a public inquiry was launched to discover the true scale of his crimes. It investigated the deaths of 900 of Shipman’s patients and years later concluded he was responsible for over 250 murders.

Harold Shipman: Doctor Death is produced by Wild Pictures, the company behind award-winning ITV documentaries including The Forgotten Children, HMP Aylesbury, Fraud Squad and The Cruise.