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The BBC's Catherine Marston
"For the 62 families, inquests may now be the only way of finding out what has happened to their loved ones"
 real 56k

Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 12:45 GMT
Fresh police probe into Shipman deaths
Dr Harold Shipman
GP Harold Shipman was convicted of 15 murders
An investigation into the deaths of 62 more patients of Harold Shipman has been launched by Greater Manchester Police.

The 62 were among those considered by an independent audit commissioned by the Department of Health and published last week.

A new incident room has been set up in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester and detectives are starting the task of contacting relatives of patients whose deaths are regarded as suspicious.


I am conscious of the uncertainty this may create with the families of former patients of Shipman

DCI Bernard Postles
Detective Chief Superintendent Bernard Postles said the original inquiry had examined cases where relatives and friends had come forward with suspicions about the deaths of their loved ones.

"The priority at this stage is for the police to make contact with the relatives or friends of the people whose deaths are regarded as suspicious.

"We are in the process of carrying this out, although this will obviously take some time.

DCI Postles
DCI Postles: "distress to be minimised"
"I am conscious of the uncertainty this may create with the families of former patients of Shipman, although I hope to keep this to a minimum."

The 62 were not included in the original police investigation.

However, the Director of Public Prosecutions has already made it clear that further court action against the former GP, who is serving life for murder, is extremely unlikely.

Whether the fresh investigation will involve further exhumation of bodies is unclear.

The move comes just days after the audit suggested that at least 236 patient were likely to have been killed by Shipman.

The police had earlier suggested that he was potentially responsible for a maximum of approximately 180.

Inquests

The Tameside Coroner John Pollard is already holding a series of inquests into 24 suspicious deaths on the so-called "B"-list - those linked to Shipman, but lacking concrete evidence.

He ruled this week in separate hearings that two patients had been unlawfully killed.

Another elderly former patient of serial killer GP Harold Shipman was unlawfully killed, a coroner has ruled.


The families who have had doubts surrounding their relatives' deaths since Shipman's conviction need some certainty

Emma Harris, families' solicitor
Shipman was convicted a year ago of the murder of 15 women patients.

Experts argue that he has no chance of receiving a fair trial if brought back to court now to face more charges.

The independent audit looked at the circumstances surrounding the deaths of hundreds of patients in Shipman's care over a 24-year period.

Most suspicion was cast over the high number who died at home, often in the afternoon, and whose last visitor was the doctor himself.

In strict statistical terms, the death rate at Shipman's single-handed practice in Hyde suggested as many as 300 - or perhaps even more - may have fallen prey.

However, strong suspicion surrounded the 236 cases mentioned in the audit.

Lawyers representing families of many of Shipman's former patients welcomed the move.

Emma Smith, of Alexander Harris, said: "The families who have had doubts surrounding their relatives' deaths since Shipman's conviction need some certainty and it is pleasing to note the way in which the police have decided to approach this situation."

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See also:

05 Jan 01 | Health
Shipman 'may have killed 236'
28 Dec 00 | Health
Male Shipman 'victim' named
10 Jan 01 | Health
Shipman: Another death confirmed
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