Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

More Haunted Crime Scenes

A Ghost or a Stab of Conscience?

Harold Shipman
Harold Shipman

News sources around the world carried the story on January 15, 2007, that the prison cell once occupied by serial killer Harold Shipman, number D336, is haunted — by Shipman's ghost.  While it's not exactly a haunted crime scene (unless one considers suicide to be a crime), it's apparently a haunted criminal.

The problem was brought to the attention of Wakefield Prison authorities by another killer who now occupies the cell, Roy Whiting.  He claimed that he could not sleep in the cell and the problem was growing worse.  According to the London Mirror, in a story by Jeremy Armstrong, Whiting was hearing things that made him believe that Shipman's spirit was in the cell with him.

Roy Whiting
Roy Whiting

While prison officials believe the "supernatural stirrings" are nothing more than other prisoners trying to goad Whiting, he insists it's a genuine ghost.  He is so certain that he has told his psychiatrist and the prison staff, and has demanded that the governor see that he be moved to a regular cell.

Sarah Payne
Sarah Payne

Ghost or prank, it might also be the case that Whiting is trying to deflect a guilty conscience.  The forty-seven-year-old pedophile was convicted of murdering Sarah Payne, 8, on July 1, 2000.  She had been playing outside her grandparents' home when he came upon her and kidnapped her. After killing her, he dumped her body in a field, where it was found more than two weeks later. But Whiting left behind fibers on the body that were forensically linked to his van, and for his crime he received a life sentence. 

Prior to moving into D336 in "monster mansion," Whiting had been in a segregation cell.  Once he was in his permanent cell, he apparently learned from others that it was bad luck, and being a sex offender, he became the target of pranks.  A noose was left in the cell at one point for him to find. 

Shipman had hanged himself in D336 with his bed sheet on January 13, 2004, one day short of his 58th birthday, cutting short his work on a biography of Napoleon. But he was not the only prisoner to have ended his life in that cell.  Jasbir Singh Rai, only 32, preceded him, hanging himself there in April 1987.  Shipman had given no outward sign of depression, so when he was found dead officials were surprised.  It later came out that he'd planned to kill himself ever since he'd started serving his fifteen life sentences.  He'd even recorded his intent in his prison diary, plotting to ensure that his wife received his full pension.  Life inside a prison was not for him.

Whiting claimed that as the third anniversary of Shipman's suicide approached, the eerie noises increased.  In turn, as he got less sleep, he became more erratic in his behavior and neglectful of his clothing and personal hygiene.  He looked like a haunted soul.  Prison staff who spoke with reporters indicated that if he made enough fuss about the problem, he would probably be moved to another cell, although such a change has not been announced in the press.

Just why Shipman's ghost might bother Whiting is not clear.  Apparently no one else who has occupied this cell over the past three years has complained, so it's not as if the specter is just lingering there. Yet Shipman, thought to have cold-bloodedly murdered at least 250 of his patients (including at least one child), would hardly arrive like some spirit of Marley to Scrooge to make Whiting feel badly about a murder.  Why would he care?  Perhaps on the other side Shipman has seen the light.  Or, more likely, the neighboring inmates are having a lark at Whiting's expense. 

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