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News and reaction Friday, 4 February, 2000, 19:37 GMT
Newsmaker: Angela Woodruff
By Andrew Walker of the BBC's News Profiles Unit

As the unfolding horror of Harold Shipman's crimes was revealed at Preston Crown Court two people, in their different ways, came to symbolise the murder trial.

One was the defendant himself. The other was described by some - although not by herself - as "the heroine" of the case. Almost single-handedly, she pursued her suspicions about her mother's death into court.

It resulted in 15 murder convictions.

Angela Woodruff, 54, is a lively, intelligent woman, still remarkably upbeat despite the immense pressures of recent months.

She said the trial was "constantly stressful". Those who know her said that, beyond the events surrounding her own mother, Angela Woodruff felt the weight of responsibility for securing Shipman's conviction for the other murders - crimes which would probably not have been uncovered had she remained silent.

Angela and Phil Woodrfuff
Angela Woodruff with husband Phil
Her pursuit of the truth has earned her the respect and gratitude, not only of the families of the other victims, but also of the police officers who investigated the case.

Detective Superintendent Bernard Postles, the senior officer in charge of the Shipman case, is particularly keen to pay tribute.

"I've been extremely impressed with Mrs Woodruff. She's a diligent and intelligent woman who has carried herself with extreme dignity despite the traumatic circumstances of these proceedings."

He thought he was God

Angela Woodruff on Harold Shipman
Up to a point, her story is much like that of many of her contemporaries.

Angela Woodruff was born in Hyde in 1945. An only child, she was educated at Manchester High School before reading law at the city's university.

She moved to Warwickshire in 1969 and works as a partner in a Leamington Spa law firm, specialising in probate.

Her husband Phil is a world-class professor of physics at Warwick University. Throughout the ordeal he was "brilliant, although he would deny it," she said.

The couple have two sons, both in their 20s, and a recent legacy from her father-in-law has left the family well off.

Forged will
The crudely forged will aroused Angela Woodruff's suspicions
Her mother, Kathleen Grundy, the widow of a university lecturer, was a respected member of the community and a former Mayoress of Hyde.

Even aged 81, Mrs Grundy was physically active and worked for local charities.

Her sudden death, on 24 June 1998, was a great shock to those who knew her. It would change her daughter's life in a way she could never have believed, for it would uncover the trail which led to Harold Shipman being convicted as the most prolific serial killer in British history.

She has carried herself with extreme dignity

Det Supt Bernard Postles
Angela Woodruff says that she knew immediately that her mother's will, which purportedly left 386,402 to Shipman, was a crude forgery.

"It wasn't a case of 'Look, she's not left me anything in her will'", she explains. The whole look of the crudely produced document aroused her suspicions.

A month after her mother's death, having spoken to the two people duped into witnessing the will, Angela Woodruff went to the police, who agreed to look into the case.

A year and a half later, the jury in Preston agreed that Shipman had poisoned Mrs Grundy and forged her will.

They also found him guilty of murdering 14 other patients. More than 100 other deaths are now being investigated.

Kathleen Grundy
Kathleen Grundy: Still active at 81
Mrs Woodruff agrees that her legal training was important in convincing the police. "Once they knew that I was a lawyer, it became much easier.

"I suppose I was more likely to be objective being a solicitor. I also realised the seriousness of the case straight away."

Of Shipman himself, she says little. "I think that he probably thought that he could do anything. I think that he thought he was God."

She found the trial particularly taxing. Shipman's desperate and nonsensical defence, that Kathleen Grundy had been abusing drugs in the months before her death and that she may have died from an accidental overdose, hurt Angela Woodruff deeply.

There's still a lot of grieving to be done

Angela Woodruff
"He tried to distort my memory of my mother in the way that he portrayed her. I just want to remember her as I knew her. There's still a lot of grieving to be done."

The inner strength which has carried Mrs Woodruff through the trauma of the past eighteen months, has kept her positive. Though she believes that the murder of her mother has left a black cloud over her life, she adds: "It's bad, but it's not the end of everything."

"Hopefully it hasn't changed me too much," she says. Though she hopes now to get back to a normal life, she thinks that she would help out with other aspects of the case if asked to.

Angela Woodruff
Angela Woodruff: Still thinking positive
"I think that now we need to look at the systems and procedures to ensure that this cannot happen again. People have got to trust their doctors and we need to ensure that they can carry on doing that in future. Sadly, it won't bring my mother back."

Harold Shipman had bamboozled his colleagues, the police, and the relatives of his victims and the people of Hyde for years. But he couldn't fool Angela Woodruff, the remarkable woman whose determination, vigilance and integrity is an example to us all.

Angela Woodruff on her mother's forged will
Find out more about the Shipman murders

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