Inquests planned into alleged Shipman deaths

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The Independent Online

A coroner is seeking permission to open inquests into the deaths of 23 suspected victims of killer GP Harold Shipman, it was announced today.

South Manchester coroner John Pollard said he wrote to Home Secretary Jack Straw yesterday seeking permission to open the inquests into the deaths of 23 elderly female patients.

Mr Pollard said he was unable to proceed with inquests without the authority of the Home Secretary because the bodies had all been cremated.

Shipman was jailed in January at Preston Crown Court for the murder of 15 of his women patients by lethal injection of diamorphine.

The CPS has decided not to proceed with charges on the 23 suspected victims because the serial killer GP from Hyde, Greater Manchester, could not be guaranteed a fair trial.

Mr Pollard said he decided to write to the Home Secretary after speaking at length to the investigating officers about the outstanding deaths.

During the course of the investigation into the deaths of Shipman's patients, he had ordered a number of exhumations to take place. Nine of those formed the basis of charges against the GP.

Greater Manchester Police began to investigate bespectacled Shipman, 54, in March 1998, six months before his eventual arrest, after concerns were raised by a GP from a neighbouring practice in Hyde, Greater Manchester.

But he was not interviewed and police failed to establish anything more than "rumour and tittle-tattle".

He eventually tripped himself up after forging the £386,000 will of Kathleen Grundy, 81, a former mayoress of Hyde. The forgery, which came to light after Mrs Grundy's death, aroused the suspicions of her daughter, a lawyer.

The father-of-four was arrested on September 7 1998 and eventually charged with murdering 15 women who were patients - most of them were elderly - of his one-man practice on Market Street, and with forging Mrs Grundy's will.