Serial killer Harold Frederick Shipman came from a blue-collar background. His father was a lorry driver and they lived in a small house in Nottingham. At 17 his mother passed away from cancer. Harold had been very close to his mother and often watched while doctors would inject her with morphine to ease her suffering. One day, while sitting in her armchair, fully clothed, she died. Harold developed an interest in medicine and eventually graduated in 1970 from Leeds University. Along the course of studies he also became addicted to pethidine, an opiate, and wrote illegal prescriptions for himself. He was caught and was removed from his position. In 1977 he returned to work in a Hyde medical practic, telling the agency that he was rehabilitated from his addiction.
After 15 years of employment he left and began his own family practice, a one-doctor show. he was what one would expect in a good doctor; caring, concerned, competent and available. His popularity gained him over 2000 patients. He worked alone and without regulation. No one was there to notice that Shipman’s death rates and prescription rates were extremely high. During the course of his 24-year career Dr. Death, as the media referred to him, killed regularly using the painkiller diamorphine, better known as heroin. His patients were all females between the ages of 49 and 81. Most were over 65. He would visit them and treat his patients as if he were an old friend. He often patted their hands as he injected them with large doses of heroin, telling them that their pain would soon be over. Many of his victims were left sitting in their armchairs while Dr. Death went back to his office to falsify their death certificates. During the latter part of his career over half of his patients died within an hour of his home visit. In the end he signed the financial assets of a wealthy victim over to himself and was caught when the daughter, an attorney, examined her mother’s estate. Dr Shipman denied everything but was convicted in January 1999 of murdering 15 women. He is linked to 23 other deaths and is believed to have killed between 200 to 300.
Dr Shipman was housed in England’s highest security level prison in Durham, northern England, until his suicide in 2004.