Harold Shipman – 215 Victims

The public inquiry into further victims of convicted murderer Harold Shipman reported today that in addition to the 15 murders for which he is imprisoned, Shipman killed a further 215 patients. High Court Judge Dame Janet Smith, who headed the inquiry into the deaths, said there was also a suspicion Shipman had killed 45 more people between 1975 and 1998.

Smith said she had “no clear conclusion” about Shipman’s motive. In only one case was there evidence that he killed for money, and she said there was “no suggestion of any form of sexual depravity”.

The following is a statement published today by the Chairman of the Inquiry, Dame Janet Smith DBE, and is a forward to its First Report, published today, in which is considered how many patients Shipman killed, the means employed and the period over which the killings took place.


The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference required me to consider the extent of Harold Fredrick Shipman’s unlawful activities but left it to me to decide how this should be done. Within a very short time, I came to realise that the only way in which to satisfy the reasonable expectations of the families and friends of Shipman’s former patients was to provide, so far as I could, a decision in each individual case in which suspicion might arise. The work of investigation and decision writing proved to be far greater than I had anticipated and has taken longer than I had hoped. I believe that this First Report provides as complete and accurate an account of Shipman’s criminality as it will ever be possible to give.
Shipman breached the trust of his patients and of the communities in which he lived. He has caused unimaginable grief and distress. No one who reads this Report can fail to be deeply shocked. I would like to express my profound sympathy to those who have been bereaved by Shipman’s actions and also to those whose trust has been so callously betrayed.

I wish to thank the many witnesses who have enabled the Inquiry to carry out its task. I know that, for some, the experience of providing evidence, whether orally or in writing, has been a painful one.
Although the investigation of Shipman’s crimes has at times been harrowing, there is one particular respect in which it has been positively heart-warming. I want to express my admiration and respect for the way in which the people of Hyde and Todmorden care so affectionately for their relatives and neighbours. I have heard and read of countless families where a son or daughter, son-in-law or daughter-in-law, niece, nephew or grandchild cared devotedly for an elderly relation, sometimes visiting several times a day, while looking after his or her own family and children and often coping with a job. I have heard many accounts of kindness by neighbours.

The completion of this First Report is an important landmark in the life of the Inquiry. It provides me with the opportunity to thank the Inquiry staff, who have worked unremittingly hard during the last 18 months. I am grateful to the administrative team, led by Andrew Griffiths and strongly supported by Oonagh McIntosh and Helen Owen. I express my admiration for, and gratitude to, Henry Palin, who, together with Ita Langan, recruited and managed a team of solicitors and paralegals. I thank the IT experts, in particular Michael Taylor, who have enabled us to cope with an enormous quantity of information without drowning in a sea of paper. I am grateful to Dr Aneez Esmail, the Inquiry’s Medical Advisor, whose help with medical issues has been invaluable. Finally, I must mention the enormous assistance I have received from Caroline Swift QC, Christopher Melton QC, Anthony Mazzag and Michael Jones, without whose indefatigable industry and considerable talents my task would have been impossible.

Janet Smith
July 2002

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