Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Callous Behavior

Other witnesses told of Shipman's lack of compassion toward the bereaved.

Jean Lilly, victim
Jean Lilly, victim (CAVENDISH PRESS/UK)

Truck driver Albert Lilley broke down as he recalled the way Shipman announced the death of his wife, 59-year-old Jean Lilley.

"He said, 'I have been with your wife for quite a while now, trying to persuade her to go to the hospital, but she won't go.  I was going to come home (later) and have a word with you and your wife and I was too late.'" 

"I said, 'What do you mean too late?' He said, "You are not listening to me carefully."' Perhaps Shipman took pleasure in forcing Lilly to guess his beloved wife had died.

He repeated this tactic with Winnie Mellor, a healthy outgoing 73-year-old who still played football with her grandchildren. 

Excited about a planned trip to the Holy Land, she, too, died following a Shipman visit. When he called her daughter Kathleen, he was deliberately obtuse, forcing her to guess her mother had died:

"He said, 'Did you realize that your mother has been suffering from chest pains' and I said No."

Winnie Mellor, victim
Winnie Mellor, victim (CAVENDISH PRESS/UK)

"He said, 'She called this morning and...I came to see her and she refused treatment.'  So I says well I'll be up as soon as I can.  He said, 'No, no there's no need for that.' So I said has she gone to hospital?

"And he said, 'There's no point in sending her to hospital.'  And I just went silent then, and he didn't say anything neither.  And then I just realized what he was not saying.  And I said do you mean my mother's dead?  He says, 'I see you understand."'

Shipman's rudeness to a neighbor — Gloria Ellis — was consistent with his personality.  But Ms. Ellis was to play an important role in bringing him down. 

She had witnessed Shipman's visit to Winnie Mellor just hours before her death.  He was to return later, as Detective Chief Inspector Mike Williams explained: 

"A neighbor, teatime, gets a knock on the door from Dr. Shipman saying he's come to see Winifred Mellor.  He can see her sat in a chair and he thinks she's dead.  They go into the house and again they find Winifred Mellor dead in a chair.' 

When the neighbor Gloria asked, "You were here before, weren't you?" Shipman did not answer.  When she asked "Has Gloria had a stroke?" Shipman was irritated and insulted her with: "You stupid girl!"

Far from stupid, the neighbor knew to the minute the times Shipman had arrived and left. She brought a smile to the court when she claimed to have been surprised to learn he was a doctor, "I thought he was an insurance man."

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