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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
GP 'deliberately killed' patients
Dr Howard Martin
Dr Howard Martin arrives at court for his trial for murder
A GP murdered three patients with overdoses because he had decided it was their time to die, a court has heard.

Dr Howard Martin, 71, is accused of murdering Frank Moss, 59, Stanley Weldon, 74, and Harry Gittins, 74, by giving them overdoses of morphine.

On the first day of the trial, Teesside Crown Court was told how police could find no motive for the killings.

Dr Martin, who practised in Newton Aycliffe, but now lives in Penmaenmawr, Conwy, North Wales, denies murder.

Dr Martin, now retired, is accused of administering fatal overdoses of morphine to the three men.

He was charged with their murders after their bodies were exhumed and subjected to forensic tests, the court heard.

Detectives began investigating Dr Martin, of Beach Road, after the family of Mr Gittins contacted them with concerns about his death.

He is accused of murdering Mr Moss, of New Row, Eldon, on March 14, 2003; Mr Weldon, from Kimberley Street, Coundon, five days later; and Mr Gittins, of Newton Aycliffe, on January 22, 2004.

Opening the case, prosecutor Robert Smith QC, said: "What the prosecution say is that Dr Martin was not dealing in the interests of his patients but had chosen to terminate their lives.

'GP had lied'

"He made the deliberate and unlawful decision to end their lives because their time had come to die. The prosecution is unable to advance any motive."

Mr Smith said Dr Martin deliberately intended to kill the three men and he was not "simply easing their suffering".

Mr Smith said Dr Martin had told Mr Gittins's family that he was terminally ill when they had understood his cancer was only localised.

The jury heard that Mr Gittins was being treated for cancer of the oesophagus and had undergone surgery just days before he died.

During a home visit the GP told Mr Gittins's daughter, Jillian Coates, that her father was "riddled" with cancer, Mr Smith said.

But Mr Smith said the GP had lied about the cancer spreading.

Breathing difficulties

Mr Moss had also been diagnosed with the disease and was undergoing hospital treatment for lung cancer, the court heard.

Mr Smith told the jury that on January 13, 2003, the doctor visited Mr Moss in his home and over the course of a 10-hour period administered three 60mg ampoules of morphine to his patient.

Dr Martin told the family that Mr Moss was distressed and he would give him an injection because he was dying. He passed away the next day.

The third victim, Stanley Weldon, who was suffering from severe dementia, died just four days later on 18 January.

The GP had visited Mr Weldon and noted he was suffering from breathing difficulties.

He administered 60mg doses of morphine to "settle him down" and "help him on his way."

Mr Smith added that a side-effect of morphine was to affect breathing and the doctor would know this.

On the evening of January 22, 2004, the pensioner died.

The trial continues.

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