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Britain's 'Dr Death' found hanged
( 2004-01-13 21:36) (Agencies)

Britain's worst mass murderer Harold Shipman -- a family doctor who killed hundreds of his patients -- was found hanging dead in his cell Tuesday, the prison service said.

Britain's Dr. Harold Shipman is shown in this undated police handout file photograph after his arrest. Shipman was found hanging dead in his cell on January 13, 2004, the prison service said. [Reuters]
Shipman, nicknamed "Dr. Death" after his horrific killing spree came to light, was convicted in 2000 of murdering 15 of his patients and sentenced to life in prison.

An inquiry later ruled he had murdered at least 215 of his patients with heroin injections, making him Britain's -- and one of the world's -- most prolific serial killer.

"He was found dead, hanging in his cell," a prison service spokesman said.

Shipman killed his patients over a more than 20-year period from 1975 to 1998. Of his victims, 171 were female and 44 male. The oldest was a 93-year-old woman and the youngest a man of 41. A statement from Wakefield high-security prison, where Shipman had been held, said he was found Tuesday morning, the day before his 58th birthday. "Despite the best efforts of staff who immediately attempted resuscitation, he was pronounced dead by a doctor at 8:10a.m.," it said.

Shipman's body was driven away from the prison in a funeral service van flanked by a police escort.

The official inquiry into the Shipman's killings found he had murdered his victims quietly, coldly and systematically, ending the life of patient after patient in a betrayal of trust "unparalleled in history." It said he may have been "addicted to killing," but found no conclusive motive.

The serial killer's death means his victims' families will now never know what drove him to kill their loved ones.

Shipman's conviction sparked horror among Britons at how a doctor who had previous convictions for forging prescriptions to feed his own drug addiction was able to continue his career and run a one-man practice.


Working alone, he was able to stockpile huge amounts of diamorphine -- the medical name for heroin -- at his home and surgery, ready to use on his often elderly victims.

He was finally captured after the daughter of Kathleen Grundy, his last victim, challenged a new will that left all her mother's wealth to Shipman. Her body was exhumed and traces of the fatal dose of heroin were found in her remains.

Prosecutors at Shipman's trial said his drive to kill was fueled by his need for a God-like power over life and death.

Others say the killer was profoundly affected by the experience of watching his own mother die from cancer -- and taking diamorphine to ease her pain.

The trial judge said his actions were a "calculated and cold-blooded perversion" of his medical skills.

Wakefield prison's statement said the killer had not been on "suicide watch" at the jail, but had been following a "normal pattern of work and education."

It said Shipman was alone in his cell when he died.

Danny Mellor, whose 73-year-old mother Winifred was one of Shipman's last victims, condemned the killer as a "coward" and said it would now be "desperately hard" for relatives to live with the mystery.

"I always harbored the remote possibility that one day I could confront him and ask him why," he told Reuters. "Now that's been taken away from me."

Ann Alexander, a lawyer who represents some of the victims' families, said many of them would feel cheated.

"They had hoped that one day they would be able to find out why ... and would have some understanding of why he did what he did. Now, of course, they are never going to know."

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