Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

The Plot Thins

To get solid proof of Kathleen Grundy's murder, a post mortem was required which, in turn, required an exhumation order from the coroner.

This is a rare occurrence for any British police force, one the Greater Manchester Police had not experienced. "We did not have one officer who had ever taken part in an exhumation.  We asked the National Crime Squad for advice." Det. Supt. Postles explained.

By the time the trial had begun, his team would be uncomfortably familiar with the process.  Of the fifteen killed, nine were buried and six cremated. Katherine Grundy's was the first grave opened.  Her body was the first of the ongoing post mortems.

Her tissue and hair samples were sent to different labs for analysis, and the wait for results began.

At the same time, police raided the doctor's home and offices. It was a low-key exercise, but timed so Shipman had no chance of learning a body had been exhumed for a post mortem — Police had to be certain no evidence could be destroyed or concealed before their search. When the police arrived, Shipman registered no surprise.  Rather, his approach was one of arrogance and contempt as the search warrant was read out.

One item crucial to police investigations was the typewriter used to type the bogus will. Shipman produced an old Brother manual portable, telling an improbable tale of how Ms. Grundy sometimes borrowed it.  This unbelievable story was to work against Shipman — especially when forensic scientists confirmed it was the machine used to type the counterfeit will and other fraudulent documents. 

Searching his house yielded medical records, some mysterious jewelry and a surprise.  The Shipman home was littered with filthy clothes, old newspapers and, for a doctor's home, it was nothing short of unsanitary.     

But an even bigger surprise was due.

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