Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Raising the Dead

Harold Shipman (AP)
Harold Shipman (AP)

His patients - mainly elderly women - were living alone and vulnerable. They adored their doctor, Harold "Fred" Shipman.
Even when their contemporaries began dying in unusually high numbers, patients remained loyal to the murderous M.D.
For as long as he spared them, his victims loved their doctor — to death.

No film director could plan a grislier scene. 

In the dead of a black August night, relentless rains and driving winds formed the perfect backdrop for an exhumation.

But this was no psychological thriller — the Manchester police were observing a real-life drama.  Experts were raising the mud-streaked coffin of wealthy Kathleen Grundy. 

Interred just 5 weeks earlier in the Hyde cemetery, the 81-year-old ex-mayoress held, in death, the key to solving nearly 400 murders. This would give killer Dr. Harold Shipman the dubious distinction of being the greatest serial murderer the world has ever known.

It puts him well ahead of modern history's most prolific serial killer to date — Pedro ("monster of the Andes") Lopez. Convicted of 57 murders in 1980, Lopez allegedly killed 300 young girls in Colombia.

55-year-old Shipman is already serving 15 consecutive life sentences in Frankland Prison, County Durham, plus four years for forging the will of his last victim, Kathleen Grundy.

In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he continues to maintain his innocence. 

How could this prolific serial killer go undetected for so long?  And what made him the monster he became? The answers lie in a story that began in earnest over fifty years ago — in a government-owned red brick terrace house in the north of England.

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