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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 21:41 GMT 22:41 UK
Shipman known as 'angel of death'
Harold Shipman
Harold Shipman was convicted of killing 15 patients
Harold Shipman was being called the "angel of death" by a patient just weeks before he died following a visit from the GP, the inquiry into the serial killer has heard.

Kenneth Smith died at the home he had shared with his brother Sidney, in Hyde, Greater Manchester, shortly before Christmas 1996.

Sidney, his carer, had died in August 1996, while Shipman was with him.

Phial of diamorphine
Shipman killed using diamorphine injections
When their neighbour Tommy Cheetham died on 4 December 1996, Kenneth Smith referred to the GP as both "Doctor Death" and the "angel of death", the inquiry was told.

The two brothers, and their two neighbours, Tommy and Elsie Cheetham, all died in similar circumstances within a nine-month period.

The inquiry had to call on the Smith brothers' nephew to give evidence "second hand" on Monday after all witnesses to their deaths met similar ends.

Nurse Stephen Phelps said Kenneth Smith had become increasingly sceptical about the medical profession following his brother's sudden death.

Until the visit from Shipman, 76-year-old Sidney had been "happy", "contented" and fairly active, Mr Phelps said.

[Shipman] moved unchecked through families, streets and bit-by-bit murdered the heart of a community

Richard Lissack QC
Four months later, 73-year-old Kenneth - who needed a wheelchair because of ulcers on his leg - was found dead by Elsie Cheetham.

Shipman had written on his cremation certificate that he had been in the house two hours before Kenneth Smith died, and within an hour of his death.

Only when police investigated Mr Smith's death almost two years later did the family find out that Shipman had visited him before he died.

'Organised murder'

The inquiry was hearing about the circumstances surrounding the brothers' deaths as they were part of a cluster of five deaths in Garden Street.

Earlier, the inquiry was told that the deaths of Sidney and Kenneth Smith and Mr and Mrs Cheetham "amounted to Shipman's organised murder of two families".

Shipman "moved unchecked through families, streets and bit-by-bit murdered the heart of a community," Richard Lissack, QC, representing local families, told the inquiry.

Shipman, 55, is serving life for murdering 15 women patients of his one-man practice in Hyde.

But the former doctor, who was convicted in January last year, is feared to have killed hundreds during his 20 years as a GP.

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See also:

20 Jun 01 | Health
Shipman 'could have been stopped'
20 Jun 01 | Health
Shipman inquiry's quest for truth
20 Jun 01 | UK
Bereaved son seeks answers
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