Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

A Killer's Childhood

Born into a working class family on June 14, 1946, Harold Frederick Shipman, called Fred or Freddy, knew a childhood far from normal. He maintained a distance between himself and his contemporaries — mainly due to the influence of his mother, Vera.   This distance was to manifest itself in later years.

One neighbor notes, "Vera was friendly enough, but she really did see her family as superior to the rest of us.   Not only that, you could tell Harold (Freddy) was her favorite — the one she saw as the most promising of her three children."

Vera decided who Harold could play with, and when.   She wanted to distinguish him from the other boys — he was the one who always wore a tie when the others were allowed more casual dress. His sister Pauline was seven years older, his brother Clive, four years his junior.   But in his mother's eyes, Harold was the one she held the most hope for.

As a student, Shipman was comparatively bright in his early school years, but rather mediocre when he reached upper school level. Nonetheless, he was a plodder determined to succeed, even when it meant re-sitting his entrance examinations for medical school.

Strangely, he had every opportunity to be part of the group — he was an accomplished athlete on the football field and the running track.   In spite of this, his belief in his superiority appears to have precluded forming meaningful friendships with his contemporaries.

And there was something else that isolated him from the group.   His beloved mother had terminal lung cancer. As she wasted away, Harold willingly played a major supportive role.

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