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Monday, 31 January, 2000, 16:51 GMT
The Shipman tapes I
When Dr Harold Shipman arrived for questioning at Ashton under Lyne police station on 7 September, he appeared confident, despite the weight of evidence building against him.
In July, police had searched his surgery and found the typewriter he had used to forge Kathleen Grundy's will. In August, detectives had exhumed her body. Toxicologists found fatal levels of morphine in her remains.
In an unprecedented move, Greater Manchester Police have released taped interviews with Shipman being questioned about the murders.This is the transcription of the first tape.
Edited version: 14k 28k
Shipman: Normally blood results came back two days later.
Police interviewer: Why was there no actual update?
Shipman: I've got no explanation
Police interviewer: Could it have been an oversight?
Shipman: It could have been. I don't know why there is no entry.
Police interviewer: You said that on the 23rd when she came to see you in the surgery you were concerned that she felt unwell. Do you recall saying that?
Shipman: I think the thing was she was frail and elderly.
Police interviewer: Is that from a visual observation?
Shipman: Yes, she didn't look as well as she normally did.
Police interviewer: Were there any other symptoms?
Shipman: Nothing more than just the visual observations.
Police interviewer: Now, at the bottom of the page the entry is actually dated the 24th June. Can I suggest to you that that is a backdated entry? It was made perhaps on the morning 24th June. It actually relates to the visit made by Mrs Grundy to your surgery on the 23rd? You claim that entry refers to the morning home visit on the 24th. There is no mention of a home visit - you claimed it was an error.
Shipman: It's an error.
Police interviewer: There is no mention in that entry which you claim to be that date about taking a blood sample from her. I can see what you are pointing at - HBESR. It does not actually say you took a blood sample from her.
Shipman: Hmm, it's not the custom of most general practioners to write: "I have taken a blood sample which would consist of this, this and this". Most general practioners just write down what the blood test is they are doing.
Police interviewer: Can I suggest to you that that entry dated the 24th is actually referring to the visit by Mrs Grundy on 23rd. The sole purpose, from what you tell us, of the visit on the 24th was simply to take a blood sample. It was not check her pulse, or her chest or her abdomen and other things. Was that the case?
[interview continues for about another four and half minutes]
Police interviewer: Where do you keep dangerous drugs in your practice?
Shipman: I do not have any DDAs on the premises, in my car, I don't have a dangerous drugs book.
Police interviewer: That being the case, and you don't keep dangerous drugs on the premises, where do you access dangerous drugs to treat terminally ill patients?
Shipman: I would issue a prescription to the relatives or in an emergency situation I would issue the prescription, pick it up from the chemist and deliver directly to the house. And that is the only time I would touch them. The giving of the drugs would be down to the district nurse, the Macmillan nurse, or whoever it was.
Police interviewer: What happens, say, if one of your patients dies from a terminal illness. You are aware that they have whatever-it-is in the way of dangerous drugs on them. What happens to those drugs?
Shipman: Drugs are usually destroyed by the district nurse in the presence of the patient's relatives. I would never take drugs away.
Police interviewer: What drugs would you routinely carry with you day-to-day?
Shipman: Antibiotic samples, sleeping tablets, some valium, centimetrim, diuretic, (plus others)
Police interviewer: Let's move on to Mrs Grundy's will. I mentioned to you earlier on in the will that you were named as the sole beneficiary of her estate, all her monies, etc, which you said came as a complete surprise to you.
Police interviewer: That will was found to be forged. The signatures Spencer and Hutchinson were forgeries. They were not the signatures which they made in your surgery on the 9th June. There is also on the will form, the document itself, an indentation of the practiced forgery, the practiced signatures shall we say, of Kathleen Grundy. What I am saying to you is the will is a complete and utter forgery. Do you have any comments to make about that?
Shipman: No. I have no comment to make.
Police interviewer: The will was received at Hamiltons solictors with an accompanying letter which we'll show you, we'll show you the will. As I mentioned earlier, there was an existing, comprehensive will made out in 1986 which was held by Kathleen Grundy's solicitors. Have you seen that will form before?
Police interviewer: When Spencer and Hutchinson signed in your surgery as witnesses did you see or notice any part of the form. The reasons why I ask is that one of those persons remembers seeing the words at the top 'last will and testament'.
Shipman: What I saw was Mrs Grundy holding my pen, signing and then I saw the two people signing.
Police interviewer: I'll pass you a letter. It's dated the 28th of June. It was received by Hamiltons on the 30th. It's marked D22. What knowledge do you have of that letter?
Police interviewer: The letters in the will were all typed on your Brother typewriter. Can you account for that?
Police interviewer: The letter signed S Smith doesn't come with an address. Mrs Smith, as far as we are concerned does not exist. The letter was clearly sent after Mrs Grundy's death. Can you account for that doctor?
Shipman: I cannot.
Police interviewer: Who would have had access to yourtypewriter after Mrs Grundy's death?
Shipman: The question is when was it returned to the surgery and that: I do not know.
Police interviewer: You mention, you allege, Mrs Grundy borrowed the typewriter on two or three occasions. You don't know when, you don't know who may have witnessed her borrowing the typewriter. We're talking here about a lady who's 81 who we would imagine have some difficulty carrying a typewriter. I am asking who would have used your typewriter after 24th June to type that letter?
Shipman: I am saying that I don't know.
Police interviewer: This was a typewriter that was kept in your surgery.
Shipman: This was a typewriter that was loaned out to Mrs Grundy on two or three occasions.
Police interviewer: This was a typewriter that was used to produce that letter after her death.
Shipman: I am saying I am not sure when the typewriter was returned to my surgery.
Police interviewer: Where was the typewriter on the 24th June
Shipman: I have no idea.
Police interviewer: Can I put it directly to you doctor that you forged, you produced the letters of this will from your typewriter in the hope of benefitting from Mrs Grundy's estate
Shipman: Is that a question or a statement?
Police interviewer: I put it to you that that is the case.
Shipman: That is not the case.
Police interviewer: I put it to you that you are responsible, you are the author of the letters and you manufactured the will. You forged the signatures.
Shipman: And I am saying I didn't do it.
Police interviewer: Mrs Grundy was exhumed on the 1st August this year and there were extensive tests, toxicology. I'll quote what the forensic scientist said to us. "Her death is consistent with the use or administration of a significant quantity of morphine or diamorphine and similar values have been seen in fatalities attributed to morphine overdoses." Do you have any comments to make about that?
Shipman's solictor: I think we need to go back to some earlier entries in the GP notes.
Police interviewer: Do you want to look at them?
Shipman's solicitor: Yup.
Shipman: If you back to the entry 12 of the 10th '96. Here I commented: "IBS again, odd pupils, small, constipated, drug abuse?," I have written: "At her age? Codeine?" Meaning I am wondering if she is taking codeine tablets. "Wait and see".
So then in July, I deliberately made the comment that she is having these IBS attacks every day. "Pupils small, dry mouth, possible drug abuse again, denies taking any drug other than for IBS. I am sure you are well aware that drugs like morphine, heroin, pethedine, all cause constipation, all cause small pupils. My comments on the 26th of the 11th. "IBS again. Should I do a blood test and check the urine?" I am sure you are aware to do a blood test and check urine against the patient's consent is not a legal event.
Really difficult if she denies everything. She is not really at risk. She is not an intravenous user as far as I was aware. I am not sure. Still, clinically, nothing of note to confirm my suspicions. "Wait and see." So over that period of time, I wondered very seriously whether this lady was taking drugs other than which I had prescribed. And I will come back to the osteoporosis because that is what I believed she was doing. I believed she was taking something other than what I had prescribed for the osteoporosis. I would only be guessing where she got it from?
Police interviewer: Are you seriously suggesting that Mrs Grundy, a well-respected lady, who had a decent life, inflicted a fatal overdose upon herself? Are you really suggesting that to us?
Shipman: And I ask whether the house was searched?
Police interviewer: Yes. There were no drugs whatsoever that could cause a fatality, according to the findings we have got.
Shipman's solictor: Well, when was it searched?
Police interviewer: I haven't got those dates to hand of the search.
Shipman: That's quite important.
Police interviewer: But are you suggesting doctor that...
Shipman: I am not suggesting anything. I am just saying my fears and worries of this lady at that time.
Police interviewer: I have given you the cause of death. A fatal overdose of morphine or diamorphine. And I have asked you to comment.
Shipman: And I have commented. I have said that I had my suspicions that she was abusing a narcotic of some sort, or at least taking a narcotic of some sort over a period of a year or so. [He refers to an earlier GP who wrote about her medication.] I am not suggesting she took drugs every day. Far from it. But the scenario was there. She did have drugs available and she may well have accidentally given herself an overdose.
Police interviewer: The scenario is this. You tell us are you are involved in some ageing survey [mentioned earlier in the interview].
Shipman: I am not telling you I am not involved in an ageing survey. I am involved with care of elderly patients as recommended by the Government in their Health of the Nation [document] which involves looking after elderly patients.
[The police tape then jumps to later questioning]
Police interviewer: I suggest to you that you have injected Mrs Grundy with a fatal overdose of morphine.
Shipman: [Emphatic] No. And you tell me that people in Hyde don't have access to drugs. I think you should talk to your drugs squad.
Police interviewer: Is it not a coincidence or significant that you are the sole beneficiary, or would have been a sole beneficiary, of a forged will. There is nobody else who could have sent that letter who had an interest in the estate of Mrs Grundy other than yourself, after her death. Is that not the case?
Shipman's solicitor: It could have been anyone with a deranged mind who could have sent that.
Police interviewer: Not with the doctor's typewriter they couldn't. And who would have been aware that the doctor was to benefit from the estate? And who would have been aware that the will had been deposited with Hamilton Wards when the original will had been with the daughter. Would you agree that there is no medical history which would support Mrs Grundy's very sudden death?
Shipman: People do die suddenly of old age. They just wear out.
Police interviewer: Would it not have been of interest to you, professionally, given that she was one of your patients involved in the ageing survey?
[Talk over each other]
Shipman:It was the Health of the Nation project for over 75s, if you are going to talk about a specialised survey, I was not taking part in a specialised survey, we are just looking after elderly in the way we do it. So no, I don't think it was peculiar not to ask for a post mortem.
Police interviewer: You're looking at me again, doctor?
Shipman: So is your colleague
Police interviewer: We'll ask you a question. re the drugs. You don't keep drugs in your surgery. Is that correct?
Shipman: I keep no drugs, you are talking about controlled drugs, in my surgery, my car or at home.
[mutterings in background]
Police interviewer: I think at that point we'll conclude things. We'll have a short break. We stop this tape at four minutes past two.
Links to other The Shipman files stories are at the foot of the page.
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