Dom Joly: Dr Shipman's steely eyes were on my mum

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The Independent Online

Regular readers of this column might remember a period a while back when I would regularly spot the mass-murderer Harold Shipman wandering around Cirencester. I eventually went to the police with my information but was given the brush-off and told that "just because a man is over 60 years of age and sports a beard doesn't make him Dr Shipman". I suspected a cover-up and indeed, the sightings decreased instantly. Shipman clearly had people on the inside who'd tipped him the nod. I presumed he'd fled abroad to somewhere like Belgium or Denmark where he'd fit like a glove and be able to start his life again. The police, of course, tried to blame the whole thing on a medical condition that they had no right to know about and certainly had no relevance to anything.

Last week I was taking Huxley and my mother on a walk to Fairford to have a look at the 15th-century windows in the local church. This is not something that I particularly enjoy, but I'm getting to the age where you do this sort of thing. We got to Fairford in good time and I spent a good half an hour staring at the windows wishing there was a pub open. Huxley was straining at the leash and started trying to dig up the church cat that's buried just outside the entrance, which gave me a good excuse to leave. I hustled Mum and Huxley out of town and we meandered along the river throwing sticks for Huxley. Suddenly Huxley tensed up and began growling at a copse. He was about to rush at it when a man stepped out on to the path in front of us.

It was Shipman. He looked flustered and started brushing imaginary leaves off his old green Barbour coat. My mum had no idea that this was the granny killer and began apologising for Huxley's exuberance. Shipman turned to stare at her and I saw his steely little eyes looking her up and down appreciatively.

"It's no problem," he said, doffing his cap to her slightly theatrically. "I thought that I spotted a grey thrush in there but he flew the coop before I could get a better look." He motioned to a pair of old black binoculars slung over his head with a tattered brown leather strap.

My mum was clearly quite taken with this polite twitcher and asked him if he lived in Fairford.

"No, I'm more Cirencester way," he replied.

I knew it. Shipman was back and was making an attempt to lure my own mum into his web of evil.

"Are you retired then?" asked my mum, unwittingly playing the part of Miss Marple to my more sophisticated Maigret.

"Sort of," Shipman smiled creepily. "I try to keep my hand in now and then."

Enough was enough, he'd moved imperceptibly towards my mother and I had to act.

"I know your bloody game, Shipman." I tried to keep a lid on my emotions and be all clinical. "I've already told the police about you and I'm not going to let you go this time; I'm making a citizen's arrest. Mum - go and get the police."

My mum looked at me as though I was insane.

"What on earth do you mean, Dom?Are you mad?"

"Mum, I don't have time for this. He's Shipman the granny killer, get the police - now."

Shipman looked at me calmly and took out his wallet. "I think there's been a misunderstanding. I'm certainly not Dr Shipman, who, if I'm not mistaken committed suicide in prison some years ago. I'm Alan Lygo and I happen to be the local Liberal Democrat councillor for the area."

I reeled as though struck by some invisible blow. Everything went fuzzy; it's been happening more and more recently... I could hear my mum and Shipman talking. Mum was saying: "Very ill... not on telly any more... prescription... 80mg... depression."

Then I could hear Shipman: "Better come with me... fireplace... cup of tea... not all raving homosexuals..." The nurse is here now. I'm so damn tired... must get some sleep.

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