Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Preliminaries

The first week was spent with the usual courtroom minutiae.  Shipman's Defense Counsel Nicola Davies went first.

Primarily a medical lawyer, 46-year-old Ms. Davies mainly dealt with matters outside the criminal courts.

She had three applications to present.

Harold Shipman after his arrest
Harold Shipman after his arrest (AP)

First, that the trial be halted. Ms. Davies claimed that Dr. Shipman could not receive a fair trial because of the prior "inaccurate, misleading" coverage of the case. For the better part of two days, she drew attention to the range of newspaper articles reportage of nearly 150 patients' cases and financial searches, plus the extensive coverage of the exhumations.

The prosecutor Mr. Henriques countered with a statement that the reports had actually been beneficial — they had helped alert other families to possible irregularities in the deaths of their loved ones.

In the Second Application, Ms. Davies wanted the court to hold three separate trials. 

She claimed the case of Kathleen Grundy should be separate — it alone had any alleged motive, greed.

The second trial, she said, should involve only patients who had been buried, because this was the only group where physical evidence of cause of death — morphine poisoning — applied.

The third trial, she believed, should cover those cremated, as no physical evidence of death existed.

Again, the prosecutor countered with an argument that, because the cases were inter-related, trying them all together was required to present a more comprehensive picture.

Ms. Davies then presented the prosecution's third application — one that stunned the court.  She wanted evidence referred to in 'volume eight' disallowed.

Essentially, volume eight detailed how Shipman had accumulated morphine from 28 patients — many now deceased. It showed the doctor continued prescribing for some after they had died, and kept the drugs for his own purposes. Similarly, he had prescribed opiates for many still living — patients who had never required strong painkillers, much less morphine.

After considering the defense's three applications, Mr. Justice Forbes carefully explained why he was denying each one.

The trial would proceed; it would include the sixteen charges in the indictment, and evidence in volume eight would be allowed.

Proceedings were adjourned until the following Monday, October 11th 1999. Then, the jury would be made up. 

And a torrent of damning evidence would flow.

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