Made For Evil: The case of Harold Shipman

On March 6th, 1995, 81-year-old Marie West was having tea with friend Marion Hadfield when Dr. Harold Shipman knocked on the door for a quick checkup visit. Sometime that day, Marie West was found dead in her home. Some say it was old age, but what people didn't know was it was much darker than that. This is ‘Made for Evil: The case of Harold Shipman.’  


Harold Shipman was born in Nottingham, England on January 14, 1946. Harold Shipman’s mother, Vera Shipman, favored him over his other siblings. This led Harold Shipman to become very self-centered, entitled, and, as a result, nearly friendless in school. On Christmas Eve, 1961, Harold Shipman’s mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Requiring treatment, Vera Shipman was given morphine for her pain. Fascinated by the effects of the drug, he started thinking about medical school. Vera Shipman sadly died from cancer on June 21, 1963. Harold Shipman was later accepted to Leeds University Medical School where he met 17-year-old Primrose Oxtoby, instantly falling for her. They were married and expecting their first child within five months. 


In 1974, Shipman started practice at Todmorden, Yorkshire where he was a family practitioner. He soon became addicted to a painkiller called Pethidine and was after kicked out of the program. He sought treatment at a rehabilitation program And, a few years later, he was accepted into Donnybrook Medical Center. It was here where Shipman regained his good name and admiration of people all over the world. Neither would last.


Marie West was not Harold Shipman’s only victim; he was convicted of killing 216 of his patients. Three of Shipman’s victims would eventually lead to his downfall. The first, Lizzie Adams, was a retired sewing manager who was found dead at her home on February 28, 1997. Dr. Shipman declared that she had died of pneumonia and claimed he made a call for an ambulance. Police later found no such call was made. The next major victim was Bianka Pomfret. She was found dead in her home by her son the same day Dr. Shipman made his visit on December 10, 1997. High morphine levels were found in her body. Shipman claimed that Pomfret complained about chest pain that evening and even falsified her medical history to cover his tracks. Shipman’s last known victim was Kathleen Grundy. The 81-year-old Grundy was found dead on her couch on June 24, 1998. Dr. Shipman was to take her blood that day. The police later found she had overdosed on heroin. 


Harold Shipman was finally caught when he tried to forge the will of Mrs. Grundy, giving him her estate and 386,000 euros. He was convicted for 15 murders but pleaded guilty to many more. It was this revelation that earned Shipman the nickname “Dr. Death.” Harold Shipman died on January 13, 2004, in Wakefield, England prison. 


Further documents of this case are in “The Shipman Files: A Very British Crime Story” on channel BBC2. Podcasts include “Dr. Death on Spotify, and “Catching a KiIler Doctor Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford” on Apple music. There are also informational videos on Youtube; just look up “Harold Shipman.”

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