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UK doctor may have killed 297

LONDON, England -- A British former doctor serving a life sentence for murdering 15 patients may have killed scores more during his 24-year career, according to an official report.

Harold Shipman recorded 297 more deaths at his practice in the northern English city of Manchester than other doctors working at a similar time in the same area.

A statistical audit of his clinical practice in Hyde between 1974 and 1998, published on Friday, found that the excess of deaths was greatest among women over 75.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn ordered the clinical audit after Shipman was convicted in January last year of murdering 15 of his elderly women patients by giving them overdoses of diamorphine, the legal term for heroin. He was later struck off the medical register.

  AUDIO

Walter Rodgers discusses the Harold Shipman case:

“All of his victims were women.”
308K/43 sec.
AIFF or WAV sound

“Fascinated with the death process.”
229K/22 sec.
AIFF or WAV sound

“A popular general practitioner.”
218K/18 sec.
AIFF or WAV sound

 
 VIDEO ARCHIVE
VideoDetails from earlier Shipman investigations
Windows Media 28K 80K
 

Professor Richard Baker of the University of Leicester carried out the audit, the results of which have been passed on to the police and Crown Prosecution Service.

'Chilling reading'

Chief Medical Officer Professor Liam Donaldson said: "The questions raised in the report will be distressing reading to the patients and relatives who were under Shipman's care over the years, but it is important for their sake that this work has been done and is published.

"It has started the process of addressing the many unanswered questions that remain after the trial of Harold Shipman.

"This review is unprecedented in its remit.

"The analysis makes chilling reading. Taken in the rounds, the review suggests that there must be serious concerns about deaths of some patients during Harold Shipman's entire career as a GP."

A helpline has been set up for people worried that their relatives may have been a victim of Shipman, who is serving 15 life sentences in Frankland jail in County Durham.

The review found a pattern in his killings that started early in his medical career and accelerated sharply towards the end.

The Crown Prosecution Service has previously said it would not be in the public interest to prosecute Shipman again when he has been sentenced to 15 life sentences.

But police have said they have enough evidence to charge Shipman, serving his sentence at a top-security prison in Durham, northern England, with the murders of a further 23 patients.

Shipman, dubbed Dr Death by the British media, has long refused to co-operate with police investigating alleged additional murders committed during his 20-year medical career.

A public inquiry into Shipman's crimes is due to be chaired by High Court judge Dame Janet Smith and will be held in Manchester. No start date has yet been announced.

It was believed it could begin as early as February and Ann Alexander, the solicitor for the relatives of Shipman's relatives, said it would look at the deaths of at least 150 more suspected victims.

She said it would be "far reaching" and would seek to identify gaps in the system that had allowed Shipman to continue his killing spree undetected.

It will also consider how he obtained drugs, altered medical records and arranged for most of his victims to be cremated without post-mortem examinations.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORY:
Britain plans wide probe of serial killer doctor
February 1, 2000

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