Shipman `bullied relatives not to ask for autopsy'

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DR HAROLD Shipman was yesterday accused of "browbeating" and "bludgeoning" the relatives of his alleged victims to persuade them against demanding post-mortem examinations.

Dr Shipman was questioned at Preston Crown Court about what was described as his "uncaring and insensitive" attitude towards the grieving family of Winifred Mellor, 73, when he went to her home a few hours after her body was found.

The GP claimed that Mrs Mellor visited his surgery complaining of chest pains less than two hours before her body was discovered on 11 May last year. But neighbours claimed they saw the doctor enter Mrs Mellor's home in Hyde, Greater Manchester, an hour earlier.

Dr Shipman went to the house to meet the family and their priest Father Denis Maher, that evening.

Richard Henriques, QC, for the prosecution, told Dr Shipman: "Your sole purpose was to make sure there was no post-mortem examination."

Dr Shipman denied the claims of four members of Mrs Mellor's family and Fr Maher that he made no mention of the possibility of a post-mortem. He said: "The family were completely stressed and in a state of shock and it is not surprising they didn't hear a lot of what I said."

He also denied evidence from Fr Maher that he had told him that Mrs Mellor had telephoned his surgery earlier that day. "I did not," said Shipman. "I am afraid the priest didn't hear properly what I was saying." He added: "I don't think I was unkind. I think I was reasonably compassionate and answered his questions as best I could."

Mr Henriques told him: "You were trying to bludgeon this family into accepting your cause of death and making sure there was no post-mortem examination." Dr Shipman replied: "No to the first part and no to the second part."

Mr Henriques pointed out that Dr Shipman had told detectives in interviews that he had saw Mrs Mellor 10 days before her death. But he said that was "completely at odds" with the evidence he had given in court.

"I was considerably stressed," said Dr Shipman. "I agree the version taken down in the police station was different to what I said today." Asked why, he said: "Because today I am more sane."

Mr Henriques accused Dr Shipman of "browbeating" Jean Pinder, the niece of another alleged victim, Joan Melia, 73, to ensure there was no post mortem examination when he had written the death certificate.

Dr Shipman, 53, of Roe Cross Green, Mottram, near Hyde, denies the murders of 15 women and forging the pounds 386,000 will of one of them.

The case continues.