Newspaper ads placed to trace Shipman's victims

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The Independent Online

Investigators trying to get an accurate count of a serial–killer doctor's victims placed advertisements in five British newspapers Thursday asking relatives of 82 of his patients for information about their deaths.

Dr. Harold Shipman was convicted last year of murdering 15 elderly patients by injecting them with heroin, but investigators suspect that number may only be a fraction of his real body count.

A coroner has identified 25 other deaths linked to Shipman as unlawful, and a government–commissioned report found he had 297 more deaths among his patients than should have been expected during his 24–year medical career.

A public inquiry led by Dame Janet Smith, a high court judge, is scrutinizing the deaths of more than 460 of his patients.

In 82 of those cases, Smith said, the panel had no information beyond an entry in the registry of deaths and no contact information for relatives.

"I wish the inquiry's investigations to be as thorough as possible," she said. "We are therefore taking the unusual step of advertising in the press to seek any relevant information."

An ad placed in five newspapers – The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, the Manchester Evening News, the Tameside Advertiser and the Tameside Reporter – lists the 82 patients' names, last address and date of death.

"Relatives or friends of any of the deceased persons named who have information about the circumstances of that person's death or any question about the inquiry are asked to write to Henry Palin, solicitor to the inquiry," the ad reads. "Please note if no communications are received, no further action will be possible in these cases."

Shipman practiced in Hyde, a town of 22,000 near Manchester, and most of those on the list died there between 1974 and 1989. The doctor is serving 15 life sentences in prison and further prosecutions have been ruled out.

The list is also posted on the investigators' Web site, www.the-shipman-inquiry.org.uk.

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