Doctor murdered elderly woman while her friend waited outside in the kitchen, court told

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THE GP Harold Shipman injected one of his victims with a fatal dose of drugs while, unknown to him, her friend stood quietly in the next room, it was claimed yesterday.

THE GP Harold Shipman injected one of his victims with a fatal dose of drugs while, unknown to him, her friend stood quietly in the next room, it was claimed yesterday.

On the second day of the trial of the man alleged to be Britain's most prolific serial killer, Richard Henriques, QC for the prosecution, described the moment when "everything went quiet" as Marion Hadfield waited in the kitchen of her friend Marie West's home in Hyde, Greater Manchester.

Mrs Hadfield had left her friend to go to the bathroom. When she returned she heard a man's voice, but trying to be tactful waited behind the door.

"She could hear Mrs West talking to Dr Shipman but could not make out what was being said," Mr Henriques said. When he walked out Dr Shipman seemed surprised to see someone else there.

Mr Henriques said that the 53-year-old GP then told Mrs Hadfield: "She's collapsed on me ... she's gone." A shocked Mrs Hadfield returned to the living room and found her friend in the chair exactly as she had left her - except that her eyes were closed and her head was resting on her right shoulder. Dr Shipman opened her eyes and said: "See, there's no life there."

Mr Henriques said that independent medical advice showed that "a sudden death from natural causes would occur with at least a gasp ... if not a collapse to the floor."

Dr Shipman did not summon an ambulance, request a post-mortem examination or attempt resuscitation - all of which could be expected, Mr Henriques said. Dr Shipman, of Mottram, Greater Manchester denies carrying out 15 murders between March 1995 and June 1998 and forging the will of one of his alleged victims. Preston Crown Court heard Mr Henriques outlined 11 of the cases yesterday.

Like many of Dr Shipman's alleged victims, Mrs West, 81, was a widow who lived alone. She is one of six whose bodies were cremated. Unlike in the cases of the exhumed bodies of the nine other alleged victims, no evidence exists of the diamorphine, which it is claimed killed the elderly women. In these six cases, Mr Henriques told the jury of seven men and five women, Dr Shipman either falsified computer records to create a bogus medical history, was present around the time of death, made no attempt to resuscitate the patient, or lied about calls for help.

Mr Henriques said the GP's explanations were far fetched. Dr Shipman claimed that 67-year-old Marie Quinn had telephoned him at 6.30pm on 24 November 1997, saying she thought she had suffered a stroke and was paralysed on one side. He said that he told her to leave the door off the latch and later found her in the kitchen at the opposite end of the house to the telephone "breathing her last".

Billing records show that no such telephone call was made. It is also "inconceivable that Mrs Quinn, partially paralysed, went from her living room to open the front door, then went to the kitchen" - a potentially fatal dose of morphine or diamorphine killed her, Mr Henriques said.

Dr Shipman may also have confused two of his patients when he allegedly murdered 81-year-old Laura Kathleen Wagstaff on 9 December 1997, the court heard. Mr Henriques said that on that same morning 73-year-old Anne Royal, whose daughter was married to Peter Wagstaff, Kathleen Wagstaff's son, delivered a Christmas gift of a bottle of gin to Dr Shipman's surgery. At 1.30pm Dr Shipman left the surgery. After he left, no call was made from Mrs Wagstaff requesting a home visit.

Mr Henriques said: "There was no reason whatsoever for Dr Shipman to visit Mrs Wagstaff's home except for the fact that he may have mistaken Mrs Wagstaff for Mrs Royal, who had just delivered the bottle of gin."

A neighbour of Mrs Wagstaff, Margaret Walker, overheard her answer the door to Dr Shipman and say: "Fancy seeing you here." About half an hour later, Dr Shipman called at Mrs Walker's house and told her husband, Donald, that Mrs Wagstaff was dead. Mr Henriques said that Dr Shipman then went to Dawson Primary School and spoke to Angela Royal, telling her that her mother was ill and that she had requested a home visit. He said he had been near her house when he got the call.

Mr Henriques said: "Dr Shipman told Angela Royal that he would meet her at her mother's home but, of course, it was not her mother it was her mother-in-law who had died and when Angela Royal ran to her mother's home there was her mother alive at the door. "Dr Shipman had obviously confused the two women," Mr Henriques said.

The court also heard how Joan Melia, a 73-year-old divorcee, was expecting Dr Shipman. At 5pm, her friend Derek Steel found her dead in a chair in the living room, fully dressed. Mr Henriques said: "Mr Steel found it strange that Dr Shipman never examined Mrs Melia for any other illness. He simply issued a death certificate assuming she had died from pneumonia." Her body revealed no pneumonia but fatal levels of morphine.

The murder of 67-year-old Irene Turner was far more complicated, Mr Henriques said. Her neighbour, Sheila Ward, had been looking out of her window for most of the afternoon and "Dr Shipman may well have spotted [her] and believed he was being kept under observation." To "give his presence at Mrs Turner's an innocent explanation", Dr Shipman went to Mrs Ward's house and asked if she would help Mrs Turner pack some clothes as she was going to hospital. "He asked her to delay ... for a few minutes," Mr Henriques said. "If Mrs Turner had recently been injected, that may provide a reason why. He would wish to make sure Mrs Turner had died."

No arrangements had been made for Mrs Turner to be admitted to hospital and Dr Shipman's explanation that diabetes had killed her did not tally with toxicology reports on her exhumed body on 10 November 1998 which show that morphine killed her. While killing 59-year-old Jean Lilley on 25 April 1997, Dr Shipman was again "caught at the scene", Mr Henriques said. His alleged victim's neighbour, Elizabeth Hunter, saw Dr Shipman's car parked outside her flat for 40 minutes from 12.10pm and saw Dr Shipman walking towards the front door. Mrs Hunter went into Mrs Lilley's flat to find her sitting motionless on the settee. She immediately tried to get Dr Shipman but he had left. Mrs Hunter confronted him, saying Dr Shipman had left her to find her friend. Dr Shipman claimed she had refused to go to hospital. A pathologist found Mrs Lilley died from morphine poisoning.

Dr Shipman stated on an alteration to 76-year-old victim Muriel Grimshaw's death certificate that he had treated her for rheumatoid arthritis on the day before she died. She was found dead by her daughter. There is no record of his visit on appointment sheets or medical records. Exhumation revealed death to be by morphine toxicity.

Former dancing teacher Lizzie Adams, 77, also died "suddenly and unexpectedly" at home. When her dancing partner, William Catlow, called at her house on 28 February 1997, he found Dr Shipman standing in the lounge. Mr Catlow rushed into the living room and said he thought Mrs Adams had fainted. "The defendant bent over the deceased and said 'She's gone, I'd better cancel the ambulance'," said Mr Henriques. Billing records showed no calls were made.

The son of widow Norah Nuttall met Dr Shipman when he returned home on 26 January 1998 and was told that his mother was not well and that the GP had called for an ambulance but he found his mother slumped in a chair. Dr Shipman then went into another room and pretended to cancel an ambulance.

Mr Henriques said that in the death of widow Pamela Hillier, Dr Shipman showed "desperation" at avoiding post-mortem examinations.

She was a healthy and active woman suffering from slightly high blood pressure. Dr Shipman was called to the house after Mrs Hillier was found and was told by paramedics already there that the police should be notified because of her sudden death.

Shipman had replied: "I don't see there's a need to do that," said Mr Henriques. Experts found that two hours before Mrs Hillier's body was found, Shipman had made 10 entries on her computerised records to create a false history that would support his purported cause of death.

He said Mrs Hillier's case had the same compelling features as the deaths of other alleged victims Bianka Pomfret, Winifred Mellor and Maureen Ward. The case continues.