Official: Shipman 'killed 166 patients'

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The Independent Online

The inquiry into mass murderer Dr Harold Shipman is expected to rule next week that at least 166 of his patients were unlawfully killed, making him the most prolific serial killer in British history.

The inquiry into mass murderer Dr Harold Shipman is expected to rule next week that at least 166 of his patients were unlawfully killed, making him the most prolific serial killer in British history.

The judge presiding over the inquiry, Dame Janet Smith, will give individual verdicts in the cases of 429 patients who died in Shipman's care between 1974 and 1998.

It is believed her ruling in 166 cases regarded as highly suspicious will be "unlawful killing". According to a report in the Sunday Times, she is also expected to declare that a further 43 patients died in "suspicious circumstances".

In another 50 cases, where records are unavailable, the judge is expected to record open verdicts, meaning Shipman may have been responsible for more than 250 deaths.

The figures justify the ruling this month by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, that Shipman should spend the rest of his life in jail because of the "heinous" nature of his crimes.

The 56-year-old GP was convicted in January 2000 of killing 15 of his patients. His victims were female and mainly elderly and his modus operandi identical, a fatal injection of diamorphine.

Since his conviction, it has been feared that in nearly 25 years as a trusted family doctor in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and Hyde, Greater Manchester, he killed hundreds of his patients.

Dame Janet's judgments in each of the cases will be sent out over the next few days to the relatives of the dead, and could open the door for compensation payments totalling £2m from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

Her interim report on the killings will be published on Friday and will make recommendations as to whether the rules governing GPs need to tightened further.

The Department of Health has already announced new guidelines, due to be introduced in the autumn, to help ensure that the circumstances that allowed Shipman to murder undetected are never allowed to develop again.

Checks have already been introduced on the signing of death certificates. Other changes to the law will require all GPs to admit any criminal records to health authorities, as well as to report all deaths in their surgeries.