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Shipman deaths within minutes

Shipman practised despite a drugs conviction  

MANCHESTER, England (CNN) -- Victims of serial killer Dr Harold Shipman would have been dead within minutes, the public inquiry into his crimes heard on Thursday.

The inquiry at Manchester town hall, north-west England, is investigating the final moments of 466 former patients of the man dubbed "Doctor Death."

On the second day of the hearings Dr Henry McQuay, professor of pain relief at Oxford University, said patients injected with 30mg or more of diamorphine would be dead within 10 minutes or less.

He said the drug would take effect within minutes, causing the person to stop breathing.

"If you do not breathe for three minutes then your brain will be starved of oxygen and you will die."

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In a report prepared for the inquiry, which is expected to last two years and is chaired by High Court judge Dame Janet Smith, McQuay wrote: "Lips would then go blue and then fingers would go blue.

"Skin colour would become pallid, death would follow."

McQuay told lead counsel to the inquiry, Caroline Swift QC, that the effects of diamorphine would be worse on elderly people.

Shipman, 55, of Hyde, Greater Manchester, was convicted in January 2000 of murdering 15 elderly female patients with lethal injections of diamorphine ands one count of forging a will. He received 15 life sentences.

Prosecutors say he may have killed hundreds more during his 24 years as a general practitioner in Hyde near the northern city of Manchester.

The inquiry, which is expected to last two years, began with an overview of Shipman's career from 1974 to the time of his arrest in 1998.

On its first day, Swift told the inquiry Shipman was forced to resign from practice in 1975 -- just 18 months into his first job as a doctor -- after being convicted of forging prescriptions for a painkiller.

Shipman admitted his addiction and received treatment. He was fined $660.

In 1977, he accepted another medical job and was considered an esteemed member of the staff. He left in 1992 to set up a one-man practice.

In March 1998 another doctor expressed concern about the number of cremation certificates Shipman asked him to co-sign, but police concluded there was not enough evidence to pursue charges.

The investigation that led to his conviction was reopened months later after the daughter of an 81-year-old widow discovered her mother had apparently changed her will to leave everything to Shipman.

Inquests have added another 25 to Shipman's list of unlawful killings, and a report has linked him directly to 236 more suspicious deaths.

• The Shipman Inquiry

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