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Wednesday, October 27, 1999 Published at 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK


Patient found dead 'seconds' after GP left

Dr Shipman denies murdering 15 female patients

The body of one of 15 women allegedly murdered by family GP Harold Shipman was discovered just seconds after he left her home, his multiple-murder trial has heard.

The Shipman Trial
Neighbour Elizabeth Hunter told the jury at Preston Crown Court that she found Jean Lilley's body after watching Shipman walk away from her flat.

Shipman, 53 - who denies 15 counts of murder and of forging the will of one of his alleged victims - visited 58-year-old Mrs Lilley to treat her for a cold.

But her cold, lifeless body was discovered just seconds after he left 44 Jackson Street, the jury heard.

On the morning of her death, on 25 April, 1997, Mrs Lilley chatted to her close friend Mrs Hunter.

'Full of life'

"She was full of zest - full of life," Mrs Hunter told the trial. "I left her laughing. We were laughing and joking."

Mrs Hunter returned to her own home, immediately above the ground floor flat Mrs Lilley shared with her husband Albert when she saw Shipman arrive.

But after waiting around 40 to 50 minutes she became worried and decide to see if her friend was okay.

Mrs Hunter told the court that as she opened her front door she could see Shipman about six feet away, walking down the path.

She found her friend sitting up in a chair dead: her hands cold and her lips blue.

The telephone number for Shipman's surgery on Market Street was printed on a prescription near the telephone so Mrs Hunter called it. She then dialled for an ambulance and two medics arrived shortly afterwards.

The jury then heard that Shipman returned to the Jackson Street house.

Mrs Hunter said: "I was quite upset and he told me there's no point crying because she was already dead.

"He didn't seem surprised. The way I felt at the time was that he was matter of fact. It didn't matter, it was irrelevant."

Witness breaks down

Earlier on Wednesday, Mrs Lilley's husband Alfred broke down as he recounted how Dr Shipman broke the news of his wife's death on his mobile telephone

Mr Lilley told the court that he had left his wife in bed at 5am to go to work but spoke to her at 11am to see if the doctor had called to treat her cold.

Later that afternoon Mr Lilley received a telephone call from Shipman saying that he had been with Mrs Lilley for quite a while.

But the distraught witness said he had to guess from what Shipman was telling him that his wife had died.

He said: "I got Dr Shipman and he said to me 'I have been with your wife quite a while and I was trying to persuade her to go to hospital but she wouldn't go'."

Mr Lilley's voice broke as he continued: "He said 'She won't go because you're not here. He said `I was going to wait until you came home and I was going to come back after surgery and have her go to hospital, but it's too late.'

"He said 'You're not listening to me carefully' and then it clicked," Mr Lilley told the court.

"I said 'why is she dying?' I couldn't say much more. I just put the telephone down and came home," Mr Lilley said.

'Lethal dose of morphine'

Home Office pathologist Dr John Rutherford said Mrs Lilley died from a lethal dose of morphine.

He said it was the only reasonable explanation after a post mortem examination showed only slight natural heart disease, but the presence of "the toxic effects of morphine".

Dr Shipman, 53, of Roe Cross Green, Mottram, Hyde, denies murdering 15 women patients. He also denies forging the will of one of his alleged victims.

The trial continues.

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