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Monday, 31 January, 2000, 16:42 GMT
The Shipman tapes II
Two weeks after police charged Dr Shipman with murdering Kathleen Grundy they decided to follow a new line of enquiry.
They called in their computer expert who went through the computer in Shipman's surgery, looking at the medical records of the patients he'd killed - in particular those of Winifred Mellor. Vital evidence was found - proof that Shipman had fabricated his victims' medical histories.
In an unprecedented move Greater Manchester Police have released taped interviews with Shipman being questioned about the murders.This is the transcription of the second tape.
Edited version: 14k 28k
Police interviewer: Can I just hand you the medical records, again, of Winifred Mellor. It's exhibit AJB22 - that's the folder there - if you want to take the documents out - spread them out - so it's easier to refer to them in the best way you want. I'll just move that out of your way. OK.
Shipman: A coronary thrombosis.
Police interviewer: Were there any other conditions?
Shipman: Listed there? Nothing that was relevant to the cause of death.
Police interviewer: Can you tell me, from whatever sources you use, how you came to that conclusion exactly that it was a coronary thrombosis?
Shipman: Well the history of angina that's of increasing severity. We have a relatively sudden death. Sudden in the sense that the patient hasn't made the effort to dial 99-9 - three nines, sorry, three nines. Hasn't staggered round to the neighbours and that's often the story with elderly patients that have coronaries fairly rapidly.
Police interviewer: Were there any signs on this lady's body which indicated to you that that was the cause of her death?
Shipman: There are no signs on the body.
Police interviewer: There are no signs?
Police interviewer: So you base this conclusion on the history you had of chest pain and angina?
Police interviewer: Is that the sole thing that you based on?
Police interviewer: How satisfied did you feel about that decision?
Shipman: At the time, very satisfied.
Police interviewer: Has that changed now?
Shipman: If I'd have had a post-mortem I understand from my solicitor that there was some apharoma [phon.].
Police interviewer: Well rather than discuss it with your solicitor ...
Shipman: But nothing else.
Police interviewer: Can you indicate to me how severe the angina was at all?
Shipman: The severity of angina doesn't indicate the likelihood of a coronary. I'm sure your medical experts would agree that. She had no signs of congested heart failure, she only got a pain if she rushed but it was lasting two to three minutes. How does one grade angina? Severe angina - you don't even get out of bed.
Police interviewer: From the progression you've noted on your records this was not something that would have been expected.
Shipman: This was a progressive angina. And people do die of coronaries with no preceding history of angina.
Police interviewer: There's certain facts I need to make you aware of at this stage. I don't think there can be any dispute in a lot of them. Mrs Mellor's body was buried on the 18th May 1998 at Highfield Cemetery, Stockport. Would you accept that from me?
Shipman: If you say.
Police interviewer: Now would you also accept that the body of Mrs Mellor was exhumed with consent of the Coroner on the 22nd of September this year?
Shipman: If you say so.
Police interviewer: And I think, from what you were saying earlier, you were aware that a post-mortem examination was subsequently undertaken. Certain samples were taken at that post-mortem for forensic analysis. Would you accept that?
Shipman: You're telling the story, yes of course.
Police interviewer: A Home Office pathologist - Dr Rutherford - carried out that post-mortem examination. I think as you were going to mention, his findings do not support that this lady died of a coronary thrombosis as you diagnosed. Would you like to make any comment on that - that finding?
Shipman: Doctors don't always diagnose a heart attack as a heart attack, they'll call it a coronary thrombosis or myocardial ischaemia or myocardial infarction. To the average run of the mill GP they are all the same - the patient's dead. With a coronary thrombosis you'd expect that there'd be a bit of heart that's sort of damaged but you can have had just an electrical disorganisation of the heart which kills you just as effectively and leaves no symptoms at all - no signs, sorry, signs at all.
Police interviewer: Well in his expert opinion there was nothing to support your diagnosis is what I'm saying.
Shipman: And he couldn't rule out a disorganised electrical activity in the heart.
Police interviewer: Forensic examination of the samples taken, including muscle tissue, at that post-mortem have been examined. These are the samples taken from Mrs Mellor. And there's certainly a high level of morphine still contained in her body - a fatal level to be precise. Can you account for that?
Police interviewer: I'd like to put it to you doctor that you were the person who administered that lady with the drug aren't you?
Police interviewer: The levels were such that this woman actually died from toxicity of morphine, not as you wrongly diagnosed - in plain speaking you murdered her.
Police interviewer: An expert has examined the drug this lady's been prescribed, from the records you looked to earlier within the exhibit - AJB22 - and from those records nothing has been found which could account for the morphine in her body. Can you suggest how it's got there?
Police interviewer: From your records, which you've had access to for some time now, can you point out where the visits you made to Mrs Mellor are indicated on the records?
Shipman: Which visits are we talking about?
Police interviewer: Well you said there was a visit in the morning.
Shipman: No I said that she came to surgery. Says here at his practice.
Police interviewer: Can you just show me where that is?
Shipman: I thought we'd got this perfectly clear, the 11th of the 11th here.
Police interviewer: So that's on page nine and it's the second entry 11.05.98 - angina pectoris. I don't understand what these terms mean here. Perhaps you could explain that for me, is this the right place I'm looking at?
Shipman: Yes that's the right place you're looking at. And I read that record out to you on the previous tape and if you wish I'll do it again.
Police interviewer: Please.
Shipman: Blood pressure's 140 over 80. The heart sounds were normal, no oedema, no sign of heart failure. Pain only if she rushes upstairs in - and it's in the throat and now in the arms. It lasts for possibly two or three minutes, it gets better all the time - meaning when she stays still it goes away. Refuses treatment.
Police interviewer: Now you told us you went back to Mrs Mellor's home when you found her dead at roughly quarter past six, I believe it was, where is the record of that please?
Shipman: I went back? You know I went, for the first time, to see her dead.
Police interviewer: Well now you're saying it's the first time before you said you couldn't remember, which is it?
Shipman: Well you're taking it that it's a repeat visit, I'm correcting you in saying I can't remember visiting at 3 o'clock, so for me this is the first visit.
Police interviewer: Where's the record of that visit?
Shipman: The record is on the front of the record there - 11.05.98 coronary thrombosis cause of death.
Police interviewer: And then there was a further visit later on with the family, is there a record of that?
Police interviewer: Would you not normally make a record of that?
Shipman's solicitor: There is, sorry, just to clarify, there's another entry on 11.05.98 Owen [sic.] dead.
Shipman: There that's fine: "Called in to see her 6.15 - dead, coronary thrombosis, daughter Linda present." I'm afraid both of us missed that, second entry from the bottom.
Police interviewer: So on this case, as well as making a written record on the front of your manila folder you've also got computer entry?
Police interviewer: When were those notes made doctor?
Shipman: They would have been made the next day, hence the 12th of the 5th '98, the final entry, which says see my note nine. Because I corrected the date for her death when I - the machine - entered up the date, that I entered the entry which was 12th.
Police interviewer: So you've corrected that to the 11th?
Shipman: Yes. To say that she died on the 11th but the machine records the entry as on the 12th.
Police interviewer: So these would have been done the day after?
Shipman: Yes I wouldn't have gone back to surgery just to enter it up on the computer.
Police interviewer: One feature of these statements from the family is that they couldn't believe their own mother had chest pains, angina, and hadn't been informed.
Shipman: ... by whom?
Police interviewer: By her.
Shipman: By her, thank you.
Police interviewer: They also found it very hard to believe that she would refuse any treatment she was given in relation to this diagnosis and I think now we can answer why that was because she didn't have a history of chest complaints and heart disease and angina did she doctor?
Shipman: If it's written on the records then she had the history and therefore ...
Police interviewer: The simple truth is you fabricated her history to cover what you've done, you've murdered her and made up a history of angina and chest pains so you could issue a death certificate and placate this poor woman's family, didn't you?
Police interviewer: We've got a statement from a detective sergeant John Ashley who works in the field of computers. He's made a thorough examination of your computer, doctor, and the medical records contained on it. First of all he's produced a medical summary report which is that document - I'll put it on the table in front of me - there's a police reference of JFA41. And, in essence, it's what you've been looking at already off this lady's medical records. A copy of the records as they stand on the computer.
Well because this man's an expert he's able to interrogate computers and he's gone into this computer of yours in some depth and what he's found is that there are a number of entries that have been incorrectly placed on this record to falsely mislead and to indicate this woman had a history of angina and chest pains. What have you got to say about that doctor?
Shipman's solicitor: Can I have a look at them?
Police interviewer: I'll go through them shortly and you'll be able to see them. You attended the house at 3 o'clock and that's when you murdered this lady and so much was your rush to get back, you went back to the surgery and immediately started altering this lady's medical records. We can prove that only minutes after 3 o'clock on that date you were fabricating that false medical history for this woman. You tell me why you needed to do that?
Shipman: There's no answer.
Police interviewer: Well there is. There's a very clear answer: because you'd been to her house, rolled her sleeve up, administered morphine, killed her and you were covering up what you were doing. That's what happened isn't it doctor?
Police interviewer: You see if you examine that record which I'm going to go through with you very shortly now to give you the exact time that things were altered, it begs the question, did you alter it before you left the surgery, which indicates what you've done was premeditated and you were planning to murder this lady, or as soon as you got back did you cover up your tracks and start altering this lady's medical records? Either way it's not a good situation for you doctor is it?
Shipman: Continue the story.
Police interviewer: I mentioned the first print out, if you want to refer to the copy that came from exhibit AJB22, all this is is a full print with the record you have there doctor. But the officer's investigations went far further than that. I'll just remind you of the date of this lady death - 11th May '98 - perhaps you can explain to me then at three minutes and 39 seconds after 3 o'clock that afternoon you have endorsed the computer with a date of the 1st October '97 which is 10 months prior: "chest pains". Please look at your record there and look at the entry dated 1st August '97, would you do that for me please?
Shipman: I've looked.
Police interviewer: What does it say?
Shipman: It says: "chest pain".
Police interviewer: 1st of August '97. Or it starts off on that date, irrigation of external auditory canal for removal of wax hair, this practice, one ear OK.
Shipman's solicitor: What date do you say that was?
Police interviewer: First, this is the 1st August '97.
Shipman's solicitor: Yeah.
Police interviewer: I'm referring to the part that's been inserted, I'm now reading what was on there already.
Shipman's solicitor: Right.
Police interviewer: First, 8.97 seen in GP's surgery here, this practice, Dr HF Shipman. First, 8.97: "chest pain, here, this practice, all appears OK, question mark, question mark, angina". Which was what you made great comment on earlier, saying "well look this lady's got angina - not unexpected".
Shipman's solicitor: Sorry which bit of that do you say was added? All of it or just the last bit?
Police interviewer: Chest pain.
Shipman's solicitor: Just the last bit, so there are two entries you're saying?
Police interviewer: I'm now showing you - I'll put it in the middle of the room - so your solicitor can examine it as well then. It's an exhibit JFA42. And it's an insertion, behind your computer there's a ghost image and it records what's placed in, when and what's removed. I appreciate you're writing, when you're done I'll show you exactly together with your client. This record of information was created it on the 11.05.98 this lady's death, three minutes 39 seconds after 3 o'clock by HFS - Dr HF Shipman: "term, chest pain, all appears OK, angina", date: 01.08.97. And it was created on 11.05.98. Where's that information come from doctor?
Shipman's solicitor: Can I just have a look at that?
Police interviewer: For the benefit of the tape I've handed the exhibit to Mr Shipman's legal representative. Mr Shipman is now looking at the record himself. Thank you. I'll ask you again doctor, where's that information come from?
Shipman: I've no recollection of me putting that on the machine.
Police interviewer: It's your pass code, it's your name.
Shipman: It doesn't alter the fact that I can't remember doing it.
Police interviewer: You choose not to remember. It wasn't too long ago in this interview where you were explaining you'd been to see the family, checked the computer record, and was telling them all about this angina. Was it?
Shipman: It's a rhetorical question.
Police interviewer: Quite correct though isn't it?
Shipman: I still have no recollection of entering that onto the computer.
Police interviewer: You'd been to see this lady at 3 o'clock on the same day as her death. And you come back and alter the computer, so much so that later that evening you're telling the family exactly - "Look: chest pains, 1st of August I saw her." There's three people heard you talking about it. It doesn't stop there, it goes further than that. I've got an exhibit here JFA43. If you want to look at your record there doctor, this was made at the same date - the lady's death - 11.05.98 and was put on 1505 and 21 seconds. What are you talking? - two minutes later than that first entry - 11th May. I've got it on your record doctor. 26th of the first '98, purporting to have been made: "chest pain, odd times and exercise does not let it stop her, angina, refuses test and RX" - I presume is referral - "not bad enough". How do you explain that doctor?
Shipman: Again in the same manner as I've explained the other one, I cannot remember putting that on the computer. I'm well aware that that's how an audit trail works.
Police interviewer: It's been placed on your computer on the same day that you've seen this patient.
Police interviewer: Hasn't it?
Shipman: Well there's no argument about that.
Police interviewer: And you were able to tell the family all about these entries later that evening at six o'clock. So it seems unusual to me somebody sneaked in your surgery, updated these false records in that three hour time span. Used your pass word, put your name on it and you're able to say: "Look, I told her, she wouldn't take treatment" - that's what that's saying there. You told her you can remember she refused the treatment and that's what's put on these false records isn't it?
Shipman: You see you're stating the obvious, that doesn't need an answer.
Police interviewer: Well it is obvious and I think it will be obvious why you've done it, don't you? It doesn't stop there. 11.05.98, 1506 and 49 seconds by HFS - Dr HF Shipman - a minute after the entry purporting to come from the 26th of the first '98. 01.05.98: "Mrs Mellor seen here, this practice, term - ill, comment - very vague pain in night [inaudible word], still not wishing tests or RX to let us know if worse". It's no wonder the family didn't know, Mrs Mellor didn't know did she? She had no angina and that's why it came as a complete shock to everybody.
You told us at the start of this interview doctor, didn't you, you tried to update your records as soon as possible, "as soon as practicable" I think was the phrase you used. You tell me why the visit you say you had at your surgery from this lady on the date was not recorded until the day after, yet all this false history is?
Shipman: I'm sorry what have you just said? That I recorded, what did I record the day after she died?
Police interviewer: 12th of the fifth '98, 0738, well I presume that's very early in the morning for you isn't it doctor? I mean your surgery doesn't start till half eight, does it, quarter to nine I think it was? It's reported on the 12th, 11.05.98: "angina pectoris" - and a part on your record here about the 140 over 80 - "no oedema, no chest - is it calf pain - only if rushes up stairs in throat, no in arms, lasted two to three ..."
Shipman: When are you saying I put this on the machine?
Police interviewer: I'm not saying anything.
Shipman: When is it being ...
Police interviewer: ... computer records saying that it was recorded at 0738 41 seconds on the 12th of the fifth. The computer has a built in clock and times when the record was updated so you put these false records on and then ...
Shipman: You'll find the clock is out by an hour because we don't change it for summertime.
Police interviewer: Which way?
Shipman: So that fact would have been put on at 8.38 the following morning.
Police interviewer: So all these other records would have been at 1606 and would have been at 1605 and would have been at 1603 - is that what you're saying?
Shipman: The timing seems a little awry, that's what I'm saying because the clock is not changed or we don't change the clock for summertime.
Police interviewer: I don't think we should bother about clock timings or anything ...
Shipman: Well you're making a great point at me being there at 7.30 in the morning.
Police interviewer: I'm making a great point about somebody falsifying a person's record on the date of her death to fabricate a medical history for them.
Shipman's solicitor: Can we have a consultation at this stage please?
Police interviewer: Certainly. The time now by my watch is 1712 hours and we'll switch off the tape.
Listen to unique police interviews with Shipman - plus other key reports
Links to other The Shipman files stories are at the foot of the page.
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