Harold Shipman was born on January 14, 1946 in Nottingham, England. He had two siblings and his nickname was "Fred". His mother died when Harold was only seventeen, but he went on to study medicine at the University of Leeds in 1965.
While at the university, he met a woman named Primrose who he married in 1966. She gave birth to their daughter Sarah that same year.
Harold graduated with his degree in medicine in 1970 and moved to the city of Pontefract, where he worked at the local hospital. Strangely, he developed a hobby of killing people and making their deaths appear natural. In 1974, he began working full time as a general practitioner in the hospital in Todmorden. He was caught forging prescriptions of the pethidine drug for personal use in 1975 and sentenced to serve some time at a drug rehabilitation center.
In 1977, he was released after being pronounced clean and allowed to return to general practice of medicine at the Donneybrook Medical Center in Hyde. There, he continued to covertly kill people there until he was able to start a clinic in 1993.
Things were looking good for Shipman. He was a well respected member of the community and had managed to dodge suspicions for the unusual amount of deaths in his care. However, he began to slip up and people began to take closer notice of his actions.
In 1998, Dr. Linday Reynolds, a close associate of Shipman, visited the local coroner to address her concerns about the unusual amount of deaths occurring in Shipman's clinic. She suspected that he was killing his patients, but did not realize that it was murder as opposed to malpractice. The coroner brought the issue to the attention of the local police, but they couldn't gather enough evidence to show that Shipman was guilty of anything more than bad luck.
On June 24, 1998, Shipman's latest victim died in her home. Her name was Kathleen Grundy and she was a former mayor of the city of Hyde where Shipman practiced. Her daughter became very suspicious of Shipman since he was the last person to see her and a will was discovered that gave all of the woman's money to Shipman and nothing to her daughter.
A police investigation was started and, after exhuming the body for an autopsy, the coroner discovered large amounts of miamorphine in her blood. All of the leads pointed to Shipman and he was arrested on September 7, 1998. Further adding to the evidence against him was a typewriter in his home that matched the typeset used in the mysterious will.
Police began checking into Shipman's history and discovered a long list of other suspicious deaths that were related to his practice. A pattern began to appear and it seemed that he was poisoning patients with morphine, then forging medical records to make it seem like they were in bad health. The police developed a laundry list of charges against Shipman, including charges for the murder of fifteen elderly women from 1995 to 1998.
The jury deliberations took six days, but in the end Shipman was convicted of all counts and sentenced to life imprisonment. Subsequently, his license to practice medicine was revoked (unsurprisingly) and he was informed that he would never leave prison.
In spite of the mounting evidence against him, Shipman vehemently denied responsibility for any of the murders and maintained that he was innocent. The police investigation looked into Shipman's past and concluded that he had been responsible for hundreds of deaths, but they could not easily produce evidence for all of them. In any case, the authorities and public were merely satisfied that the monster would never leave prison to kill again.
Shipman did not take well to prison life and he committed suicide on January 13, 2004 by hanging himself with his bedsheets. There was little sympathy for him following the death, and some British newspapers applauded his move and encouraged other serial killers to commit suicide in the same manner. Some of the victims, however, felt cheated since he had escaped the punishment of spending the remainder of his life in prison.
Today, Shipman remains infamous and is one of the most "successful" serial killers in history. Numerous other practitioners have been exposed for murder, but none on the scale of Mr. Shipman's actions. To help prevent repeats of the situation, changes have been made to the medical system to watch for suspicious numbers of deaths.