Hi, everyone, it's Molly, in case you haven't heard, Precast has a brand new series sure to become your next favorite. It's called Medical Murders, and it exposes a dark and disturbing diagnosis that not every doctor wants to extend your life. Every Wednesday, host Alistair Morton introduces you to the worst the medical community has to offer men and women who took an oath to save lives, but instead use their expertise to develop more sinister specialties.
With expert analysis provided by practicing M.D. Dr. David Kipper Medical Murders examines the formative years and motives of history's most infamous killer doctors.
And now here's your chance to enjoy an exclusive clip from our first episode on Harold Shipman.
He was a full time doctor and part time serial killer who injected over 200 patients with lethal doses of painkillers to finish the episode, follow medical murders free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcast, listener discretion is advised.
This episode features discussions of murder, medical malpractice, mental health conditions, addiction and prescription drug abuse. That may be upsetting. We advise extreme caution for listeners under 13.
At a certain point in life, we accept death is inevitable. We even come to expect it in certain cases when we lose someone elderly or very sick. We grieve, but we aren't surprised. We've prepared for the pain, anticipated the event. When a grandmother dies of old age, no one questions it when her aging friend down the road dies from cancer. It's not a shock. And when over 200 elderly citizens of Hyde, England, died within a 20 year span, no one imagined that they were the victims of the UK's most prolific serial killer.
This is Medical Murders, a podcast original for decades, thousands of medical students have taken the Hippocratic Oath. It boils down to do no harm. But a closer look reveals a phrase much more interesting. I must not play at God.
However, some doctors break that oath, choosing to play God with their patients, deciding who lives and who dies each week on medical murders. We'll investigate those who decided to kill. We'll explore the specifics of how they operate not just on their patients, but within their own minds, examining the psychology and neurology behind heartless medical killers.
I'm Alistair Madden and I'm joined by Dr. David Kipa, M.D..
Hi, everyone. It's a pleasure to be here to assist Alister by providing medical information and insight into the killer's modus operandi. I've been in practice for over three decades specializing in internal and addiction medicine, and I'm really thrilled to be part of this program because I'm a huge fan of crime stories. And for me, as a doctor, solving a murder is much like solving a difficult diagnosis.
You can find episodes of medical murders and all other podcast originals for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts to stream medical murders for free on Spotify, just open the app and type medical murders in the search bar. This is our first episode on Dr. Harold Frederick Shipman, otherwise known as Fred, the UK's most prolific serial killer. Between 1974 and 1998, Shipman killed at least 218 people. Every one of them was a patient who had entrusted the doctor with their care.
Each victim's family believe they died of natural causes until the dark truth was revealed today. We'll look at Shipman's disturbing modus operandi, his early murders and likely motivations.
Next time, we'll examine how Shipman escalated his crimes within his private practice and how the subsequent inquiry into Dr Death forever changed the British medical field.
Kathleen Grundy was late. Still, it was only a few minutes into her scheduled 11am volunteer shift. Her friend John Green figured she was merely distracted. But after 45 minutes, Greene and his friend Ron Pickford grew concerned.
It wasn't like Kathleen to be late, though. She was 81. She stayed active, volunteering five days a week. Still, she was 81, so Green and Pickford went to check on their friend around noon on June 24th, 1998, they found her back door unlocked. It wasn't uncommon for Hydes elderly citizens to leave their doors open, but it still gave green pause. He shouted hello with no response. Further inside, he found Kathleen lying peacefully on the settee, fully dressed as if she'd fallen asleep with her shoes on.
He tried to wake her, but her skin was grey and her body was cold. Green called in Pickford, who called Cathleen's Dr. Fred Shipman, 20 minutes later, Dr. Shipman arrived, checked Kathleen for a pulse and promptly declared she'd died of a heart attack. Greene asked about Kathleen's doctor's appointment that morning, had she been sick, Shipman replied that he'd stopped by only for a talk.
Later that day, Kathleen's daughter, Angela, called Shipman to inquire about her mother, Shipman told her what he told Greene and Peckford that her mother had died of cardiac arrest. In fact, she'd complained of chest pains at her appointment that morning. However, when he filed the death certificate with the coroner, Dr. Shipman wrote that Kathleen Grundy had died of old age, not a heart attack.
Old age means that you have lived to a point where some of your illnesses and some of the chronic things that have gone on with you starting to catch up with you. So we don't really think about aging until we start feeling the effects of these chronic illnesses. Old age is sort of a nondescript answer and can be very misleading to the coroner. Families rarely review a death certificate, but the coroner is very careful about what's written. These are legal documents and actually have life insurance implications and also reflect exactly in case people do have to go back for family reasons to know what their genetic history is.
They'd like to be able to refer back to these death certificates to see if they're in trouble for anything that may be in their in their genetics.
Kathleen's daughter, Angela, did question the death certificate. She was a solicitor. And to her, it was clear the listed cause of death did not line up with the facts.
When Angela approached Dr. Shipman, he claims the fib was a favor to save for the stress of a post-mortem exam and ID. He was helping her. Angela knew her mum loved Dr. Shipman and that his private practice was extremely popular with the citizens of Hyde. So she trusted him until things grew more suspicious.
A law firm reached out to Angela saying they had her mother's will, but that couldn't be possible. Angela already had her mother's will, even stranger. This second will left nothing to Angela and requested Kathleen be cremated despite the fact that she'd expressly told Angela to bury her, not to mention the will was typed in all caps with words, missing letters. The law firm said their point of contact was John Smith, which Angela guessed was a fake name.
This will was a forgery and a lazy one.
She wouldn't stand for it. Angela began an investigation, starting with the law firm and then the police. Before long, Kathleen Grundy's body was exhumed and an autopsy revealed that she hadn't died of a heart attack or old age. She'd been murdered, injected with a lethal dose of morphine. The evidence pointed straight to the Wills beneficiary and perhaps the last person to see Kathleen Grundy alive, Dr. Fred Shipman. Angela didn't know it, but her mother wasn't Shipman's first victim, she was, at the very least, his 218.
His murders spanned 23 years with his first confirmed killed back in 1975. But his crime story began 12 years before that in 1963, the first time Fred Shipman saw a sick woman dying. When he was a teenager, Shipman's mother, Veera, was diagnosed with lung cancer. This news was made more devastating by reports that Fred was his mother's favorite. According to some accounts, she spoiled him rotten, always telling him he was better than the other boys.
Though they were working class, she pushed him to apply for a scholarship to an elite private school. Shipman's soon learns that perception was everything. He lauded his tie in uniform over his family and the neighborhood kids, displaying an early sense of arrogance on and off the playground.
But he had no more time for that. In 1963, after his mother's diagnosis, he'd raced home from school to comfort Veera as she waned away from cancer. At the time, it was routine for doctors to make house calls to check on patients and administer drugs like morphine. Sometimes doctors drop by unannounced just to say hello or have a cup of tea. Fred Shipman got to know his mother's doctor and his work. Well, Fred recalled watching his mother struggle for breath, then grow calm and peaceful as the doctor injected morphine into her veins.
Morphine works in the brain by slowing down those reflexes in the brain to control breathing and heart rate. So as morphine comes into the brain, those centers that normally regulate these functions start to slow down. More interesting, Alistar doctors prescribe morphine not just for pain management, but we also use this at the end of someone's life in order to give them a very peaceful and calm exit.
Veera passed away in 1963. It seems Shipmen dedicated much of his life to reliving his last year with her. To that point, by the age of 17, he had decided to become a doctor and in 1970 he graduated from Leeds University Medical School. Later that year, 24 year old shipmen began working as a preregistration house officer at Pontefract General Infirmary. In retrospect, Shipman's killing career may have started alongside his medical one, so some people attempt to process their traumas by reliving that trauma.
This is not uncommon and is used constantly in therapeutic sessions. And this is called exposure therapy. Exposure therapy. However, in someone that is murdering people is probably not such a good therapy. The trouble with investigating Dr Shipman is that every one of his murders was initially documented as a natural death, meaning that the hard evidence was lost to time and the truth buried with the victims. Not much is known about his training, but the accounts we do have are concerning.
One nurse, Sandra Whitehead, recalled that the Infirmaries women's ward once saw three deaths in a single day that Shipman worked, and she often found empty injection packs left in deceased patients rooms. She presumes they were used to administer intravenous drugs like morphine. If any of these deaths were murders, they lined up with Shipman's later M0. And it wasn't just Sandra. The Infirmaries records show a higher than usual death rate during Shipman's training period, perhaps because we're conditioned to trust our doctors.
No one suspected Shipman of anything at the time. Nurse Sandra Whitehead only came forward decades later after she heard about the government investigation into Shipman. It's also possible some of these deaths weren't premeditated murders, but accidental overdoses. Shipman may have hoped to relieve a patient's pain, remembering the miraculous relief morphine gave his suffering mother and overdone it.
If so, this period may have contained Shipman's second moments of revelation. Morphine had the power to take away pain, but it also had the power to kill without consequence.
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