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Dr. Death police 'not fit for case'

Shipman is believed to have killed at least 215 elderly patients.

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LONDON, England -- Two detectives who investigated British mass murderer Dr. Harold Shipman were inexperienced and not fit for the case, the inquiry into his crimes has ruled.

If a "properly directed investigation" had taken place, the lives of his last three victims "would probably have been saved", inquiry chairman Dame Janet Smith said Monday.

Shipman, a doctor in Manchester, northwest England, was convicted for the deaths of 15 elderly women patients in 2000, but an earlier inquiry revealed that at least 215 patients, mainly women, were murdered. (Full Story)

A further 45 were "suspicious," Dame Janet's first report found last year.

Dame Janet, the judge conducting the latest inquiry, singled out Chief Superintendent David Sykes and Detective Inspector David Smith for criticism.

The investigation, in March 1998, was triggered after a fellow GP raised concerns that Shipman might have been killing his patients. It found no cause for concern.

Sykes failed to realize he was too inexperienced to supervise the case and that Smith was "out of his depth".

Smith then lied to both a number of internal investigations and to the Shipman Inquiry in a bid to deflect criticism from himself.

He was inexperienced and not accustomed to working alone and failed to understand the issues surrounding the case.

If the police, together with coroner John Pollard, had acted more quickly, the deaths of three Shipman patients would "probably" have been prevented, Dame Janet said.

Only last year did Greater Manchester Police (GMP) carry out a thorough internal inquiry into Smith's investigation and finally admit it had been "seriously flawed".

Dame Janet said: "I am driven to the conclusion that, had it not been for the Shipman Inquiry, the GMP would never have made any more thorough inquiry into the matter."

Greater Manchester Police today said they would take on board the recommendations of the Shipman Inquiry reports.

Monday's report also recommended changes to Britain's system of death certification and coroners' investigations.

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