Frowning with concentration, he scribbles feverishly

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THE WORD "murder" haunts a court room when it is uttered 15 times in such quick succession.

THE WORD "murder" haunts a court room when it is uttered 15 times in such quick succession.

The counts were racking up against Harold Frederick Shipman yesterday. With unremitting stamina, Richard Henriques, who leads the prosecution's case in this trial, detailed 11 of the 15 cases against Dr Shipman with barely a pause for breath between each.

When the 53-year-old Dr Shipman stepped into the dock at Preston's historic Sessions House court nine days ago, it was clear that his time in Manchester's Strangeways prison had worn at him.

A more bushy, greying beard could not disguise a gaunter Dr Shipman than the one who had appeared at the string of remand hearings which brought him here. His grey hair has also thinned noticeably.

But from the red plastic cushion on the low-backed bench, which could be his dock seat for three months, Dr Shipman spent the trial's first five days, which were consumed with legal argument last week, feverishly scribbling notes on an A4 ringed pad. Yesterday his note-taking was more studious than ever and a file with coloured dividers had also appeared.

At times he hangs hard on the words of Mr Henriques, at whose back he sits. He cocks his head and frowns in concentration as words escape his hearing, then a more feverish burst of note-taking will follow and he will purse his lips.

Almost familiar now, these gestures seem the only tangible clue to the workings of his mind.

In seven days, Dr Shipman has only uttered the words "I am" confirming his identity a week ago yesterday. His wife, Primrose, has been seated 10 yards from him each day in the front row of the public gallery, but there has never been recognition as he faces her, or any of their children, on his walk out of court to the cells.

It is the air of anonymity that strikes most who observe him here. If anyone ever fitted the serial killer classification, then on appearance it is not Harold Shipman. The catalogue of allegations which will continue today are all the more astonishing for it.