Mother's family thanked Shipman for `his caring'

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THE SON of one of Harold Shipman's alleged victims told the murder trial yesterday that he and his wife had thanked the GP for being at his mother's side as she died.

The Crown alleges that Kathleen Wagstaff, 81, was killed by Dr Shipman, 53, of Mottram, Greater Manchester, with an overdose of morphine on a surprise visit to her home in Hyde. Preston Crown Court was told that Peter Wagstaff and his wife, Angela, were first told by Dr Shipman that it was Mr Wagstaff's mother-in-law, Ann Royal, who had died. When they went to see Dr Shipman the next day, he said he was sorry for the "mix- up". "He apologised for the confusion and we thanked him for his care and attention and for being with my mother when she died," Mr Wagstaff said.

Mrs Wagstaff was found dead at her flat on 9 December 1997, within an hour of a visit by Dr Shipman that was not recorded on his surgery records, the trial was told. Her daughter-in-law told the jury that the GP had arrived at the school where she taught. "Dr Shipman said that he had been called to my mother's house and that she had died while he was there," said Mrs Wagstaff. She went to her mother's home, and found her alive.

She later telephoned Dr Shipman's surgery and was told by staff that it was her husband's mother who had died.

A neighbour of Kathleen Wagstaff, Margaret Walker, said that that day she had been on her way out of her flat when she heard the door-bell ringing and saw Dr Shipman outside. Mrs Wagstaff opened the door: "She was very pleased to see whoever it was, and surprised I would say," Mrs Walker said. When she returned 45 minutes later she was told Mrs Wagstaff was dead.

The Crown alleges that on the day of Mrs Wagstaff's death there was no record of any visit in the GP's visiting book and the surgery diary showed no appointment for her.

Mrs Wagstaff's body was later cremated. But Dr John Grenville, an independent GP called by the prosecution, said he could find no evidence from the records that Mrs Wagstaff was suffering from the heart disease that was linked to coronary thrombosis by Dr Shipman as her cause of death.

The son of another of the alleged victims, Norah Nuttall, 65, told how, after leaving his mother in her home in Hyde on 26 January 1998 for less than an hour, he had returned to find Dr Shipman on the doorstep and his mother dead in a chair.

Dr Grenville told the court that according to her medical history, Mrs Nuttall had been suffering from quite severe heart disease and was being treated appropriately.

Dr Shipman denies murdering 15 female patients and forging the pounds 386,000 will of one of them. The trial was adjourned until today.