Shipman inquiry will report on 500 cases

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A clearer picture of the murderous activities of Harold Shipman is expected in July when a judge gives a decision on the deaths of 500 of the GP's former patients.

The findings – first expected at the start of the year – had been delayed because of the "colossal" amount of work examining the deaths of 800 people since Dame Janet Smith opened the inquiry last May. She told relatives yesterday the report would contain about 500 individual decisions. "Each of these cases has been individually investigated by the team and each of those 500 cases will have a decision which has been written by me personally," she said at a meeting in Manchester.

"I hope that that will give you an impression of the amount of work that has been done and is still being done. It is colossal."

She said the report had been partly delayed because of late evidence.The team found documents last week that meant some cases would have to be reopened. "I believe it may be unique for an inquiry to publish a report on this large scale in so short a time."

The inquiry followed the conviction of Shipman on 15 counts of murder in January 2000. He refused a request to leave his cell in Frankland jail, Co Durham, to attend the inquiry but his wife, Primrose, was ordered to appear before it.

Phase two of the inquiry, starting in May, will include looking into Greater Manchester Police's initial investigation, in March 1998, which failed to bring Shipman to justice.