GP murder inquiry spreads

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The Independent Online
POLICE OFFICERS investigating the general practitioner accused of the murders of four female patients are to exhume a further three bodies, it emerged yesterday.

Dr Harold Shipman, 52, of Mottram, Cheshire, is at the centre of what has become the biggest police inquiry in the Manchester area since the Moors Murders case in the mid-Sixties.

The latest three exhumations are to take place in the next few days. They include that of Maltese-born Maria Fernley, 53, who died suddenly at her home in Hyde in March 1995. Relatives had been surprised by her death, but were reassured by the death certificate signed by Dr Shipman which allegedly stated that it was due to natural causes - cerebrovascular accident, hypertension and arteriosclerosis. Police are preparing to fly to Malta, where she is buried.

Police are planning to examine 3,000 prescriptions issued by Dr Shipman amid fears the numbers of alleged victims could be as many as 28.

In addition to the three latest exhumations, it was also disclosed yesterday that one of the other cases being investigated is that of Cissie Davies, 73, who died in February this year. According to her death certificate, signed by Dr Shipman, Mrs Davies died of bronchopneumonia. She was cremated. Her daughter Norma Lenthall, of Sheffield, said yesterday: "The police have told us my mother's death is one which comes within the orbit of their inquiries."

Dr Shipman was first accused of murdering Kathleen Grundy, 81, and of forging her pounds 300,000 will to make himself the sole beneficiary. Last week he was charged with murdering three other female patients: Joan Melia and Winifred Mellor, both 73, and Bianka Pomfret, 49.